At the beginning of this year, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador and studied Spanish for three months. Living with a host family and taking classes each day. Life in Quito was definitely not what I expected, but I loved living there.
Overview of Quito
This city, which lies in the heart of the country, is the capital of Ecuador. Because the city is only about forty kilometers long and around eight wide, it is easy to navigate. The main areas of Quito lie along calle seis de Diciembre (street sixth of December) which can be traveled by taxi or bus. I’m going to try to keep this down to just the things I liked the most or know the best about Quito.
Quito is known for many tourist sights, including places like El Panecillo, La Besílica, Volcán Pichincha, as well as many others. During my stay in Quito, I visited most of the more popular tourist areas.
This beautiful cathedral is located in the old historical part of Quito, El centro, on the top of a hill with a perfect view of El Panecillo. Getting to the basilica is very easy as is can be seen from almost anywhere, I always took the bus to el centro then walked about 15-20 minutes, depending on if I did some shopping along the way, to the cathedral. Entrance for locals is $2 and foreigners $4, I believe. But there are two different places to pay, so if you only want to climb the outside of the Basilica go to the ticket station on the outside, otherwise you will have to pay twice, one for the outside view and one for the inside. There are two gift shops inside as well as a little cafe towards the top. The view from the top is totally worth it if you don’t mind heights and very steep stairs!
Teleferico (Volcan Pichincha)
I had already been living in Quito for about two months by the time I finally went to the top of this mountain. The teleferico is a gondola lift which takes you to the top of the mountain Pichincha for a beautiful view of the city. Cost is about $8 dollars for foreigners and I think $6 for locals. Getting to the lift is very easy, just take a taxi, they all know how to get to teleferico. It’s not too far from el centro and can be seen from practically anywhere in the city. At the top, there are little coffee shops and bathrooms. The city of Quito was trying to make the mountain something like a theme park but that failed so now there are many empty buildings that would have been little shops at the top. Never the less it is still a big tourist attraction so it gets busy fast. It’s best to go there early in the morning as it’s clearer and you can have a better view of the city as well as there are not a many people. There is a hiking trail for those who wish to go higher up the mountain, you can also rent a horse for $5 for an hour. It’s colder on the mountain than the rest of the city so bring a warm jacket.
Or the virgin is a statue of the Virgin of Quito which sits on the top of a hill at the edge of El centro. She is holding broken chains to signify the freedom of Quito if I remember right. Now, this is towards the more dangerous side of Quito, so locals always told me never to walk here or go at night. I did go at night the one time I went, but I was with a local so it was fairly safe. This is just a viewpoint so there is no charge.
Dangers in Quito
Now many people will tell you that Quito is a very dangerous city, but I never experienced much danger during the three months I lived there.
Going out alone at night can also be very dangerous as the streets in Quito seem to almost empty on weekdays after ten pm. If you happen to be out alone in the streets at night just walk fast and find a busy street. I was never robbed while living here, but it is a big city and things happen.
I would have to say the most dangerous thing about Quito is the buses. One of the major streets in Quito, seis de Diciembre, has four car lanes which surround two more lanes for the buses. Because of these separate lanes, the buses work kind of like a metro, which is a good thing, but it also means that the buses are less likely to stop for pedestrians. It’s a common saying in Quito when crossing the street: “look both ways, and if nothing is coming, run” Since I grew up in a small town, crossing the street was always an adventure for me. Riding the buses can also be dangerous, always keep all your belongings in hand when on a crowded bus. If you are wearing a backpack put it on the front of your body, this prevents people from cutting your bag open from behind you and taking your stuff.
Downtown (El Centro)
The downtown part of Quito was definitely one of my favorite places in the city, I would often go there with classmates during the week before or after class to go shopping or just see the sights. On the weekends this can be a very busy place, so keep a good watch on your belongings as they could get stolen.
The downtown area also has a good nightlife, just ask for Mariscal and taxis know where to go, this is the place with the most night clubs and bars. The most popular club here is called bungalow, it gets very crowded Wednesdays, which is ladies night, and on the weekends. There are many other good bars and clubs here, but bungalow is where everyone goes.
Best of downtown
My favorite place to go in this part of the city was a little chocolate shop and cafe called República del cacao. My friends and I discovered it one day while shopping and then forgot where it was. The next time we came to el centro we looked for it for over an hour and a half before finally finding one of the other locations and asking where the one we were looking for was. I highly recommend this shop to any chocolate lover, though it may be a little pricey it is totally worth the cost.