Quito is set at an elevation of 2850 m, amidst the Andes and their foggy peaks. Our airport landing was interesting to say the least. Our plane had to abort the landing at the very last second due to fog. We went via Guayaquil for a temporary stop and on the return to Quito, it was still extremely turbulent. If you don’t believe us, read about Quito airport online. However, if you want to go to Ecuador, to visit the Equator, the adventure town of Banos and learn about their culture, and try some amazing food, it’s a must.
We stayed in the central area or historic area and only for a short stay before our trip to the Galapagos. The city is about a $30 cab fare from the airport.
When travelling around, Quito doesn’t have their own currency, so have US dollars. Smaller denominations are preferred. Only use your ATM card if you really need to, for safety reasons.
We were warned plenty of times about Quito being dangerous for mugging and pickpockets. We did see a few around. Just dress super casual, don’t carry flashy cameras or jewellery and don’t walk out at night and very little money and you’ll be fine.
Where to stay
Make sure to keep reading this. Despite our arrival issues, we did enjoy our stay.
We were super annoyed to arrive and find they didn’t have our booking. I booked in April, had a printed confirmation and also re confirmed the day prior. This meant, as a husband and wife couple who booked a private room, we could not have it and got given a bunk room. We were fortunate there was a room spare, but sharing with others wasn’t ideal, particularly when we were well organised. Our $30 a night private room became $25 (for both) in a 4 person room. That said, they offered to give us a free dinner $5.
The rooms were comfy, spacious and warm. There are charging ports and cupboards. Mindful though the street is pretty noisy, the rooms near the dining room are too as people wake early for tours etc.
The hostel itself was safe, with security access, coded locked door, locked drawers (you need to buy your own lock). Outside is not so safe at night. Don’t walk out after 7, get cabs everywhere and look after your belongings.
That said, Community Hostel is a great place to stay. It’s a super clean hostel with private rooms as well as bunk rooms with single and shared bathrooms and is very social.
There’s a lounge room and dining room. The dining room offers amazing meals at only $5 each. We had the salad with roasted vegetables and poached chicken. For the breakfast at only $3.50 it was waffles and fruit which the chef arranged beautifully. Sign your name up and it will be ready for you. Tea and coffee is on hand for free.
They have different events each day like happy hour, salsa lessons, language and more. I also did a free yoga class which was great.
It’s in the old town area and close to walk to the historic sites. The hostel is great and it’s a wonderful place to meet people.
What to do
Our Community hostel, who also arrange tours run a free walking tour (its free except you’re encouraged to give a $5 – $10 tip). We were shown our way from the hostel to the meeting point. We then met or guide Soli who showed us around the city for 3 hours. She was extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the city and Country.
The tour began with safety guidelines for the day and then we were taken to the mercado (marketplace) and showed the food court (we went back for a $3-$4 Ecuadorian lunch). We visited the fruit shops tried some of the delicious fruit on offer. We also visited the floral sellers who sell bunches of roses for $4!! Apparently Ecuador has the best roses due to it’s location on the equator, the roses grow with straight stems. We also visited other stalls selling meat, cheese and herbs.
We then were led to the historic areas in the old town with plenty of churches, monasteries and are steeped in tradition (pardon the pun). We were also shown the Plaza Grande, Palacio Del Gobierno (seat of the presidency), Palacio Arzobispal (where the Archbishop once lived) as well as plenty of museums such as the currency one. Soli explained information about Ecuadorian presidencies, currency and religion.
The tour involves a fair amount of walking, but at a slow pace. You must be interested in learning the history to enjoy the tour. It’s worthwhile to see the sights in the safest and cheapest way possible.
Directly opposite the Community hostel was a craft brewery where you can get a good beer, some beer snacks such as pizza, tacos and chicken wings.
Middle of the world tour – Mitad Del Mundo
We paid $20 through the hostel to do this tour. We were picked up at 2:30 (which meant we could do the walking tour as well in the morning). A large vehicle like taxi took a group of us to the middle of the word. It is a tourist site where you receive a short tour to explain the history of the site, and how you’re standing at 0 degrees of latitude, straddling the southern and northern hemisphere.
We were shown some interesting activities like how the water goes down a drain differently depending on the side or the hemisphere, trying to rest an egg on a nail. If you achieve this task, you can get an “egg master” award. Take your passport and get it stamped too. It felt like a little tourist trap, but interesting all the same. They provided us with some interesting facts and showed us how people once lived and briefly explained the history of the head shrinkers.
This was a $4 entry.
We then went to the site of Mitdad Del Mundo where the official memorial statue of the equator line is this is pretty much the new and improved version of the above mentioned site. We took the lift to the top for some beautiful photos. On site, there’s a few shops, beer brewing gallery and plenty of places to eat. The entry fee was a $6.
This tour dropped those who were interested in the Teleferico (cable car).
This was definitely worth the trip. The cable car costs $8.50 and it takes you up to the viewpoint of Quito and Andes and Volcano at 4100m. The view is unparalleled and at sunset was incredible. Be sure to take your warm clothing as it is very cold way up there!
We didn’t stay in Quito long but felt is was the right amount of time. If you’re keen to climb and see Cotapaxi (the volcano), you may like an extra day. However, from Quito we departed and headed to Banos, as well as the Galapagos island (see our blog here)