So in 2017 I was working and living in Quito on a minimum wage, and let me tell you, that’s not an easy thing to do. But if I wanted to have fun and tour around a little, I had to learn how to manage everything with as little money as possible – and that, my friends, is when you learn some tricks.
Quito is very rich in culture and things to discover since Ecuador is a country that is very connected to its native Quichua customs and historical places. You will certainly find all sorts of tours, from gastronomic to adventure ones.
Here is the part one of some places you definitely need to visit if you set foot in this beautiful city, and some tips that I’ve collected during these 7 months that I lived there:
A Little Bit of Quito
Mitad del Mundo
Welcome to the middle of the world! At the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo you’ll find the big monument marking the famous Ecuador Line that separates the North and South hemispheres. Just before you enter, you can also see the UNASUR headquarter building, with most of the Latin American flags.
You’ll find information in English to enter the park, and you have many options for tickets. I recommend you buy the pricy one to see the whole park, and it gives you access to go up the monument – it’s a great view.
With the premium ticket, you can see all the museums around the park, and you can visit the Quichua monuments and representations to read up on some history. There you’ll also see the guinea pigs they raise for food (yes, Ecuadorians eat “cuy” prepared in many ways) and some llamas. Then you can choose to go up the monument or try to equilibrate an egg on a nail to prove that the equilibrium is truly bigger there.
How to get there:
The cheapest way is hopping into a Catar bus that goes to “La Ofelia” or taking a ride on the Metro line to the La Ofelia terminal – either one costs U$ 0.25. When you get to La Ofelia, you’ll pay another U$ 0.25 to ride any bus available there, and you’ll pay an additional U$ 0.15 when you enter the Mitad del Mundo bus, but it will drop you right in front of the UNASUR building. But if you make it this way, it’s literally 0.65 cents to get there!
– Quito is a very cold and rainy place, so it might be best to go in the morning, the chances of having a blue sky and better view are higher.
– While looking around in the little shops and restaurants scattered around, you can find a place to stamp your passport with a special Mitad del Mundo stamp. You can also do that inside the monument’s shop.
– If you visit during the summer equinox (March 19th to March 21st usually), you might be able to experience and participate in a traditional Quichua festival in celebration of the Pachamama.
If you’re already at Mitad del Mundo, you might want to take a quick ride to the Pululahua volcano. You’ll find a beautiful view and you have the option to go down to the bottom of the volcano through a long trail. Camping is also allowed and you have the option to go on foot or horseback. But go prepared, it’s a very cold place.
How to get there: they have options for a ride at the ticket office at Mitad del Mundo, or if you’re already in one of the buses that take you to Mitad del Mundo, there’s a high chance that the same bus goes to Pululahua. It’s free to enter the park, you’ll just need a quick registration at the entrance.
Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila
Another quick ride from Mitad del Mundo, you can find the Sun museum created by the Ecuadorian painter Ortega Maila on the way to Pululahua. There you’ll find Quichua art and traditional pieces, a little shop, a performance with aromatherapy. It’s built as a native temple, although it’s a fairly recent construction, and you’ll see many performances with music and other elements from the Quichua culture. For the second part of the museum you’ll see original pieces by Ortega Maila and maybe even meet the painter himself, who sometimes is there doing live hand painting, selling massage oils and offering “té de coca” – drinking tea made out of coke leaves is another traditional custom for places that are located in high places, since it helps with breathing and blood flow.
Rucu Pichincha Volcano
Hop into a cable car that takes you to the top of the Rucu Pichincha, one of the most famous active volcanoes in Ecuador. It’s probably one of the best views of the whole city, and there are many shops and restaurants up there. For the trekking lovers, you can also hike the whole way and then continue on a very long trail that leads you to Rucu Pichincha’s actual peak. It’s a bit of a challenge hiking in such a high place (4,784 m or 15,696 ft.) – especially if you’re not a trekker and not used to heights, be prepared for a medium level hike! Sometimes there are some gastronomic fairs and traditional music playing at the observatory level. You also have the option to pay for a horseback ride through the trail.
How to get there: if you’re around La Foch, it’s easy enough to hail a cab to go up until the entrance, but remember to use the taximeter, it’s a fairly cheap ride. The buses might take you, but they don’t reach the top, so you’ll have to walk there this way. To ride the cable car, there’s a U$ 8.50 fee, but it’s worth it.
Public Transportation, Taxis and Prices.
Getting around in Quito is not that hard. The Ecuadorian capital has some landmarks that really help to locate yourself, such as famous neighborhoods like La Floresta and La Carolina, the historical center (Centro Histórico) and the Plaza Foch square (if you’re staying in a hostel, it’s probably around here).
You might want to keep an eye out for famous avenues like Avenida Río-Amazonas and Avenida Eloy Alfaro because they cut through main points in the city. Having the Carcelén (North side) and Quitumbe (South side) bus stations as references, since they’re in opposite poles in Quito is also smart.
Public transportation is really cheap in Quito, only U$ 0.25, and you have four main options to choose from: regular buses, the Ecovia line, the Trole line and the Metro line (which is not a subway line, but an individual bus line). If you want to tour around without paying much, that’s the easiest way, and you can get to most tourist attractions this way.
If you don’t mind paying a little bit more, or if you’re traveling with more people, it might be worth it to hail a cab to get to your locations. But be smart about it and make the taxi drivers turn on the taximeter because they might try to rip you off if they notice you’re a “gringo”.
Also, for Ecuador (and most countries in Latin America) I’d recommend learning basic Spanish since the English level in the country is not great. If not for basic survival, at least for a little bit of courtesy and having the best trip ever!