So, you’re here, but where should you start exploring Ecuador? From the north to the south or from the east to the west? The choice is yours, and the good news is, that Ecuador has various transportation options to suit your needs.
Make sure to always have your passport with you when traveling around Ecuador. There are checkpoints scattered throughout the country where you’ll need to show your passport. It’s a good idea to keep copies of your passport in a separate place just in case you lose it.
Let’s say you’re in Quito and you want to reach Loja. You could embark on the long bus journey covering 400 miles (646 kilometers), which takes around 14-15 hours. Alternatively, you can catch a quick flight for about $80 and be there in just an hour. The choice depends on your available time, budget, and your love for bus rides.
Ecuador’s TAME airline offers flights to various Ecuadorian cities and nearby South American destinations. However, it’s worth noting that TAME has faced some complaints about canceled flights recently.
Most one-way flight tickets cost less than $100, making it easier for you to decide which option aligns best with your plans and budget.
When flying to the Galapagos Islands or the Oriente (jungle), tourists might pay a bit more than Ecuadorian locals, but the prices are still reasonable.
If you opt for air travel within Ecuador, it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance. If you can’t secure a spot on a flight, consider heading to the airport and putting your name on a waiting list. You might get lucky if someone doesn’t show up.
Ecuador has an excellent bus system that connects all the major towns in the country, making it the most popular way to get around. It’s a fantastic way to see the beautiful landscapes of Ecuador, and it’s incredibly affordable. For instance, the bus trip I mentioned from Quito to Loja costs around $15. Generally, you’ll pay about a dollar for each hour of travel.
Getting on a bus at the bus terminals is quite simple. Just walk in, and 90% of the time, you’ll find a bus heading to your destination within an hour. Personally, I like to buy a ticket at the terminal, whether I plan to catch the bus there or not. Having a ticket guarantees you a seat. Without one, the bus can fill up with passengers who have tickets, and you might end up standing until a seat becomes available.
The buses are modern and quite comfy. Some even have air conditioning. Most buses also show a movie or two, depending on how long the journey is.
Unfortunately, there’s often not much consideration given to women who are standing on the bus. So, to all the gentlemen out there, please consider giving up your seat, especially to a pregnant lady who’s holding on for dear life.
This is where having a good book or something to entertain yourself with comes in handy while traveling in Ecuador. During a long bus ride, unexpected things can happen, like roadblocks due to mudslides, ongoing road construction, or road closures due to protests. Sometimes, the driver and assistant might decide to take a lunch break. So, having something to pass the time can be a real lifesaver, or should I say, a sanity saver.
Be cautious when using overhead storage for your belongings. Thieves can easily slide your items to the front and then exit the bus with them. Storing your things under the bus is usually safe. Some of the larger bus companies now provide you with a ticket for your bags and even offer insurance for them at a very low cost. This extra attention helps ensure that everyone gets their own bags. In all my years and countless bus rides, I’ve never lost a bag.
Driving in Ecuador can be quite intimidating, especially for those used to the relatively orderly roads in North America’s big cities. Many drivers here, often inexperienced and quite daring, tend to speed recklessly. While there are some traffic signs, few Ecuadorians pay much attention. The roundabouts in Quito, in particular, can be nerve-wracking.
Most people advise against renting a car in Ecuador, but it is an option that some may find convenient. Surprisingly, we’ve grown to enjoy driving in Ecuador and rent a car when our budget allows.
If you do decide to take the wheel, be sure to obey all traffic signs and exercise extreme caution. You not only have to contend with aggressive drivers but also roads filled with unexpected potholes, speed bumps, and blind turns, where buses may suddenly attempt to pass each other. It can be quite an adventure!
To rent a car, you’ll need your passport, a credit card, and your driver’s license from your home country. If your stay in Ecuador is less than six months, that’s all you require. While you can obtain an international driver’s license before leaving for Ecuador, it’s not necessary for stays shorter than six months. However, if you plan to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for an Ecuadorian driver’s license.
Taxis and Vans
Taxis are readily available in all major cities and towns. Even smaller towns have drivers who can take you where you need to go.
In the city, opt for marked taxis. They don’t all look the same; they aren’t always yellow, so look for a cooperative seal on the door to be sure. Always agree on the fare before getting in.
Having small bills for taxi rides is convenient as it allows you to pay the exact amount you agreed upon. Sometimes, drivers hope to keep the extra dollar as a tip, claiming they don’t have change. However, most drivers do carry change.
As you become familiar with an area, you might discover that inner-city buses are a cheap and convenient option.
If you need a car for a day, you can negotiate a daily rate with a taxi driver, providing you with the convenience of a car without the stress of driving.
For larger groups or when traveling with a lot of luggage, larger vans available at the airports through reservations can be a practical choice. While they may cost a bit more, they can be worth it, especially if it saves you from taking two separate taxis.
Your choice of transportation will depend on your specific travel plans and preferences. Whether you prefer the convenience of flying, the affordability of buses, or the flexibility of taxis, Ecuador offers a range of options to explore its diverse landscapes and vibrant culture.