Getting Around in Ecuador

Getting around Ecuador is a little trickier than getting around at home. Know that roads are often in a state of disrepair, and you should approach public transportation with caution. It’s very easy to get around historic Quito and downtown Cuenca on foot, but you should not walk around these cities at night.

When You Arrive

Before you begin enjoying your stay in this tropical nation, you'll need to meet Ecuador's entry requirements. Many travelers will find that this requires little more than:

  • A passport valid for at least six (6) months from date of entry.
  • Proof of onward or return travel.
  • Evidence of enough money to pay for one's trip.

Being located on the equator, Ecuador enjoys pleasant weather practically year-round. For most travelers, "the best time to visit Ecuador," is during the summer months, when children are out of school and people are granted vacation time (Stateside). Avoiding wet seasons is dependent upon where you intend to go within the country more than anything else.

All Things Transport

Plane

Traveling by air is a good option in Ecuador — it’s often the safest and most affordable way to travel.

International flights land in Baltra and Santa Cruz in the Galápagos. On the mainland you can find airports with international commercial flights in Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Esmeraldas, San Cristóbal, Salinas, Manta, Santa Rosa, and Tulcán. Domestic flights usually cost around $50 to $90 USD, although flights to the Galápagos are considerably more expensive. If you want to take a domestic flight, you can also fly to and from Lago Agrio, Loja, Macas, and Coca.

Boat

Cruises are a common way to get to the Galápagos islands. You can choose from small yachts and larger cruise ships. This is a considerably more expensive option than flying, but it’s also much more scenic and allows you to see more wildlife on your way to the islands.

If you do choose to fly to the Galápagos, you’ll want to hire a boat to travel around the islands once you arrive.

You can also travel by boat to destinations in the Amazon. In fact, there are many destinations in the Amazon that you can only reach by canoe or speedboat, such as the Cuyabeno National Park.

Bus

Buses are one of the most common ways to get around Ecuador. You can find bus routes between every major city. Buses that travel longer distances are usually fairly large and comfortable. But compare the price of a bus to the price of flying – it may be cheaper to fly, depending on your destination.

Busses that travel around cities can be quite crowded and you might not always be able to find a seat. Keep in mind that local buses make frequent stops and may take a long time to reach their destinations. Quito has a bus service called trolebus that runs on its own track, much like a trolley. These buses are relatively quick and affordable.

Rental Car

Road conditions make it difficult to get around Ecuador in a rental car. It’s especially difficult to drive long distances through rural areas. There is a distinct lack of signage and there are often lots of potholes, although the major Pan-American Highway is usually in fairly good condition. If you do rent a car, you can find rental agencies in the airports in Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Quito. You should note, however, that’s easier and cheaper to take a taxi or a bus.

Taxi

Taxis are a convenient way to get around Quito. You should only take registered taxis. You’ll be able to identify them by their orange license plates, yellow bodies, and registration stickers in their windshields. Make a note of your taxi’s registration number and negotiate the price of your fare before you set off. If you take an unregistered taxi you have a much higher risk of being robbed or cheated.