Traveling by public transportation in Ecuador can be quite the experience and can give a great insight into local life in Ecuador. Buses in Ecuador make travel very inexpensive. As a general rule you can budget for not much more than a dollar per hour of travel. This means that public transportation in Ecuador can make travel in this country very affordable for those on a lower budget. Here we cover everything you need to know about public transportation in Ecuador.
The bus experience in Ecuador is arguably not to be missed. When you get on a bus, you take your seat among the locals and you can sit back and enjoy not just the countryside whizzing by, but also everything else that goes on during a bus ride. For example, at the different stops, vendors will get on selling everything from pre-packed snacks through to full fried chicken meals with rice or salchipapas (sausage and chips). You will also find that people try and sell all kinds of different remedies and cures for many illnesses. One such vendor was selling a remedy that was supposed to cure everything from stomach aches through to dementia. Traveling by public transportation in Ecuador is interesting, if nothing else.
While buses in neighboring Peru are luxurious, offering comfy padded seats that recline right back, allowing you to sleep, and meals such as you might expect on an airline, traveling by bus in Ecuador does not provide this level of quality. Your seat will be, well, pretty much a regular bus seat, and while it will recline somewhat, it will not recline fully. Any food you buy on the bus will be that offered by the aforementioned vendors, unless the bus makes a stop for a comfort break (some long-distance buses do). While there may be a bathroom, it will usually be rather unpleasant, could be locked, and if you can get in, there may be a sign advising “urine only”. In that case you will have to hang on for that longer toilet break.
Most buses between cities from Quito either leave from the southern terminal (Quitumbe) or the northern terminal (Carcelen). From Quitumbe you can take a bus to the cities of Banos, Latacunga, Cuenca, Guayaquil and Ambato, among others. From Carcelen, buses run to the north, so you can access destinations such as Otavalo, Mindo and Ibarra. A few bus companies run from their own depots spread throughout the city too.
Getting around Quito by bus is very inexpensive and may be a good option if you are on a budget and want to avoid taxi costs. There are three trolley bus systems running through the city. These are Trolebus, EcoVia and Metrobus. These routes are good as they are not subject to traffic issues because they have dedicated lanes, and they run very frequently. The EcoVia runs from north to south on the Avenida 6 de Diciembre, and the Trolebus runs along 10 de Agosto. The Metrobus runs along America.
There are also blue and green buses that take routes through the city, though there are no clear timetables, and you will have to flag buses down to get them to stop. The buses say where they are going on cards at the front of the bus, though by the time the bus is upon you, you may not have had time to read the sign. You will also have to know where you are going and ring the bell in time for the bus to stop. You may also have to more or less jump off the bus as it is still moving. These buses do not have dedicated lanes, and so they are prone to getting stuck in traffic. It is also worth noting that buses in Quito can get very packed. This can be uncomfortable, and it can also expose you to risks such as pickpocketing. There is more on this below.
It is important to be aware of safety and security risks on buses in Ecuador. One common problem, both on the buses themselves, and in the bus stations is that of pickpockets. Be aware of your valuables at all times, and ideally keep them as concealed as possible. This includes cell phones as well as money, credit cards, passport and any other expensive items (such as sunglasses, watches, jewelry or others). You might consider purchasing a money belt that can be hidden under your clothes. Alternatively, leg pouches can be bought inexpensively, and these allow you to hide items that might otherwise attract unwanted attention.
This aside, travelling on buses at night is somewhat risky, not least because you may sleep and not be keeping an eye on your possessions. Another issue on some roads is that buses have been known to be pulled over by bandits along the highway and all travelers robbed of all their belongings. While this does not happen much, it does occasionally happen, and when it does, it mostly occurs on roads in the coastal region. It is best to avoid traveling overnight, where possible, to avoid these sorts of problems.
While traveling in Ecuador by bus between cities you may be “treated” to films that will be blaring at a high volume and displayed on a small screen. We suggest bringing headphones, unless you enjoy very loud, very terrible films.
For short journeys around towns or cities, taxis in Ecuador are also very affordable. For just a few dollars you can usually get quite a long way. Taxis are yellow and are required to use the “taximetro” – though drivers do not like to do so sometimes, because not using it allows them to charge more. Just ask “Con taximetro por favor” and they will usually switch it on, unless it is night time, when they often won’t use it. At night time it is best to get a taxi called for you rather than flagging one on the street. Don’t try and give taxi drivers large notes (even a $10 will be considered “large” if your journey is for $1.50). You will be less likely to be charged excessively if you politely say “Buenos Dias”, “Buenos Tardes” or “Buenos Noches” when you get into the taxi, as generally expected in Quito and its surroundings.