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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.