So you're here, now where do you begin. Travel Ecuador from north to south? East to west? It's up to you. And you'll find in Ecuador, transportation to fit your needs.
Keep passports with you at all times while you travel Ecuador. Checkpoints throughout the country will require you to present your passport. Keep copies of your passport in a separate place in case of loss.
Let's say you're in Quito and want to get to Loja. You could take the long journey (400 mi/646km) on the bus, which can take 14-15 hours. Or you can catch an $80 flight and be there within an hour. It all depends on the time and money you have available, and how much you love riding in the bus. ;)
Ecuador's TAME airline offer flights to a variety of Ecuadorian cities and nearby South American cities. Lately TAME has received many complaints about canceled flights.
Avianca, and LATAM/LAN also fly to major cities.
Most one way tickets are under $100; making it easier for you to decide what the best option is for you and what fits your plans.
When flying to the Galapagos or Oriente (jungle) tourists often pay a higher price than Ecuadorians; prices are still quite reasonable.
If you travel Ecuador by plane make reservations early. If you can't get on a flight it can be worth going to the airport and putting your name on a waiting list. You may get on if someone doesn't show.
Ecuador has a very good bus system linking all major towns in the country, making it the most popular way to travel Ecuador. It's a great way to check out the scenery of the country. Plus it's dirt cheap. The trip I mentioned between Quito and Loja costs about $15. Typically you'll pay about a dollar for every hour of travel.
Catching a bus in the bus terminals is quite easy. Just walk in and 90% of the time you'll find a bus leaving for you destination within the hour. I prefer to buy a ticket at the terminal whether I plan to catch the bus there or not. If you have a ticket you'll get a seat. If not, the bus can fill up with ticket holders and others, which means you may have to stand until a seat becomes available.
Buses are modern and quite comfortable. Some even have air conditioning. Most buses show a movie or two depending on the length of the trip.
Usually very little consideration is shown for women standing on the bus. So to all the "gents", consider the possibility of giving up your seat to the poor nine-month-pregnant lady whose holding on for dear life.
This is where having a good book as you travel Ecuador comes in. On a long bus ride anything can happen. A mudslide can block your path. Road construction may be under way. A group of protesters could be blocking the roads. Your driver and assistant may decide they want to stop for lunch. So having something to pass the time can be a life saver, more like a sanity saver.
Be careful when using overhead storage. Thieves can easily slide your stuff to the front and step off the bus with it. Storing your things under the bus is quite safe. Some of the bigger bus companies now give you a ticket for your bags and insure them (for next to nothing). This still seems to keep them watchful that everyone gets their own bags. In all the years and "millions" of bus rides, I've never lost a bag.
Read more about what to expect on the bus.
Driving in Ecuador still scares me. Big city driving in North America is cake compared to what happens on the roads of Ecuador. Many inexperienced and daredevil drivers speed everywhere. There are a few traffic signs, but hardly any Ecuadorians pay attention to them. The round-abouts of Quito are especially nerve-racking for me.
Most people advise against renting a car, but it is available and may be a convenient way for some to travel Ecuador. We have actually come to enjoy driving in Ecuador and do rent a car whenever we have to money to do so.
For more info on renting a car. Click here.
If you do decide to drive, follow all traffic signs and be very cautious. Not only do you have to watch for crazy drivers, but the roads may have unexpected potholes or speed bumps and blind turns. These turns are usually where a bus will decide to pass another. Ahhh!
To rent a car you'll need your passport, a credit card and your home country driver's license. If you're going to be in the country under six months this all you need. You can get an international license before leaving for Ecuador, but it isn't necessary unless you'll be in the country longer than six months. If staying for more than six months, you will have to apply for an Ecuadorian driver's license.
Taxis are common in all big cities and towns. Even smaller towns have drivers available that will be willing to take you where you need to go.
In the city, only take a marked taxi. Not all taxis are compact cars nor are they all yellow, so a cooperative seal on the door is the best way to tell the difference. Ask for a price before you get in.
It's great to have small bills when taking taxis, so you can pay exactly what you agree on. Sometimes they hope to keep the extra dollar as a tip, using the excuse that they don't have change. Most drivers DO have change.
As you get to know an area, you may find the inner city buses to be a great cheap option.
If you need a car for a day, you can pay a taxi driver a daily rate to take you around. So you have the convenience of a car without the stress of driving.
Larger vans are also available at the airports by making a reservation. These are great for large groups or if you have lots of luggage. They usually charge a bit more, but if it saves you from taking two taxis, it should be worth it.
After traveling around Ecuador you may want to check out what else South America has to offer. Border crossing is relatively uncomplicated. For more info click here.
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