Where We Be
|ECUADOR ITINERARY: Mar 6 - Apr 26, 2012
Buses in Ecuador are wonderfully affordable. Essentially, $1 US per
person = 1 hour of travel throughout Ecuador. You can pay directly
on the bus. A bus "assistant" keeps track of who has boarded and
will come to collect money from you sometime during the journey.
He will usually have change for a $5 or $10 bill (we never tried using
a $20). The assistant also stores your bigger luggage under the bus
and makes sure only you pick it up when you get off. If you speak
some Spanish, you can ask this person to tell you when you have
reached your destination (i.e., if it's not the last stop).
We never had any issues with attempted theft on any bus, but good
sense dictates you store valuables at your feet or on your lap -- not
overhead or hidden out of sight under the seat. We always kept
passports, cash, and electronics in a day bag close at hand on
board the bus, while storing our bigger bags (containing mostly
clothing) in the storage compartment below.
Taxis are also quite affordable in Ecuador. Usually $1 or $2 will
cover you in smaller cities like Cuenca, Loja, or Otavalo. In bigger
cities like Quito or Guayaquil it might cost up to $4 or $5 if you're
going a long way. We give the taxi driver our destination and ask
the fare before getting in (assuming there isn't a meter which often
there isn't). A better option in Quito is to take the trolley for 25 cents
if you're going a long distance -- it runs up and down the length of
the city and offers a great way to get from Old Town to New Town.
We 'splurged' on one trip from Loja to Cuenca, taking an Elite Tours
van for $12 per person. The van was much faster than the bus over
this mountainous route (it took us 3 hours instead of 5 or 6 hours).
For added flexibility, consider "open-jaw" flights to and from the
Galapagos -- e.g., fly from Quito to Isla Santa Cruz on the way there,
then Isla San Cristobal to Guayaquil on the way back.
To get between the main islands of the Galapagos, you can take an
inter-island water taxi for $25 per person.
We stayed at hostels and inexpensive lodgings throughout our stay
in Ecuador and usually paid between $20 and $40 per night for a
double room with private bath. Ironically, more expensive hotels
typically charge you a 12% VAT tax (making the room even more
expensive) while inexpensive hostels do not. Inexpensive lodgings
usually do not include heat -- your room is simply the ambient
temperature. Usually this is not a problem as the climate in Ecuador
is temperate (if you're at elevation) to hot (if you're at sea level). But
occasionally in cities like Quito and Cuenca we had to wear layers
in the evening to stay warm inside our room until we got under the
covers. In the Galapagos (hot) we paid an extra $10 per night for
AC and considered it worth every penny.
In some of the less expensive hostels only Spanish is spoken.
Knowing a few key words ahead of time (like "Cuanto cuesta?" for
"How much?" and "Doble con baño" for "Double with bath") can
help you communicate more easily.
If your room has an anemic shower, Robin found a good solution:
borrow a plastic container from the kitchen, fill it with hot water from
the shower, then use that plus the shower water to get clean.
Wifi is usually available in most hostels and inexpensive lodgings in
Ecuador these days -- if not directly in your room, then in the lobby.
"Almuerzos" are an awesome lunch deal -- a set-price lunch for
$1.50 or $2.50. Just ask for the almuerzo when you sit down and
they'll bring you the meal -- usually soup, entree, and fruit juice.
Fruits and veggies are incredibly cheap in Ecuador. We often paid
just 5 cents per apple or banana (with no bargaining).
Wine is fairly pricy in Ecuador because it is imported -- usually from
Chile or Argentina. We discovered you could buy a liter-size box of
decent Concha y Toro wine from Chile for $6 or $7 from grocery
stores or small vendors (if you looked around a bit). Local beer is
affordable and readily available. "Blue laws" can sometimes make
it hard to buy wine or beer on Sundays -- even at restaurants.
Ecuador uses the US Dollar as its currency. Bring small bills with
you -- lots of $5 and $10 bills. When paying for a room or a meal
(i.e., any bigger expense), try to break a $20 to keep your stash of
small bills intact. Many vendors won't be able to break anything
bigger than a $5 or $10. Credit cards are rarely accepted unless
you're paying for an airline ticket or a big excursion, and often there
is a 3% to 6% fee to use it. When buying our Galapagos cruise we
were able to negotiate the credit card fee down from 6% to 3%.
Bring lots of Ziplock baggies of different sizes. They come in handy
for all sorts of things -- storing wet bathing suits, keeping items dry
when in the rainforest, temporarily holding small food items in your
day pack, organizing belongings in your pack, etc.
Public toilets rarely have toilet paper so it's wise to bring some with
you on the trip and keep it handy.
Laundry services are incredibly cheap in Ecuador. There's hardly a
point in doing it yourself when it can be washed, dried, and folded
for you for just a few dollars. It can usually be picked up later that
same day or the next morning.