Our arrival into one of the highest capital cities in the world was not exactly what you would call a success. We hadn’t been city-bound for a while and to be fair, we were slightly reluctant to be there.
Even so, we did the usual, and checked a low-cost hostel on Booking.com and then just showed up hoping to secure a better price. Upon our arrival to the prostitute-laden, light-deprived street where the “hostel” was located, I breathed an all too early sigh of relief.
We rang the buzzer and were informed by the nasal body-less voice that the hostel was full. My heart sank like Leo Dicaprio in Titanic (there’s plenty of door there Rose, you selfish bitch).
Stood in the ghetto, in the dark, in an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous city with no Wi-Fi… what would become of our backpacked heroes, folks?
Enter, he/she man!! The nicest, if not largest black transexual prostitute I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve seen many mind you!) to direct us to another street close by with hostels that would be open. She offered me a freebie, which I politely declined (much to Katie’s amusement I might add) and we were on our way.
When we found the Malenka Hostel, we settled in and connected to the WiFi to plan our time in Quito.
Upon an extensive Google, we deemed it might be possible to do everything we wanted, in one day. We decided to make it fun and challenged ourselves to do Ecuador’s capital city in 24 hours with a budget of $24.
Quito was the first capital city in the world to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to the landscape, and the shape of the city and because it has the most well-preserved old town in the world. So there’s a lot to see and do. Would we be successful? Read on to find out.
Table of Contents
From Otavalo to Quito:
We had spent a couple of days in the beautiful Otavalo before Quito, so we took a bus from the Terminal Terrestre (ask a local, it’s not hard to find) to the main terminal in Quito. It cost $2.50 from Otavalo to Quito and took about 2 hours.
From the main terminal to the city (Plaza Del Teatro) costs $0.25c by bus. When you exit the main terminal, you will see all the platforms for the metro bus lines. Tell the seller or security where you want to go, and they’ll point you in the right direction of which line to take. We had to swap buses halfway, but the whole experience was relatively painless.
Accommodation In Quito:
We stayed at Malenka Hostel near Plaza del Teatro. They have various rooms and apartments for various prices. We opted for the cheapest, which was a single bed (that was easily big enough for 2 people) with a shared bathroom for $12.
The only drawback was there was no kitchen. Which is normally a deal breaker for us, but 1. we couldn’t find anything with a kitchen and 2. It’s actually cheaper to eat out in Ecuador than to buy the ingredients and cook. You can have a 2-course lunch with a drink for less than $3. BARGAIN!!!
What We Did In Quito:
Time to burn some (shoe) rubber:
Obviously if you want to see as much of a city for as little money as possible, the best way is to walk the streets, and the best way to do that is by taking a free (please always tip) walking tour.
We took one from the Community Hostel on Pedro Fermin Cevallos N6-74. The tour started at 10.30 am (there’s one at 2.30 pm also) and was about 3/4 hours long. Andrea, our knowledgeable and amusing tour guide, took us through the old town, to the food markets, artisanal markets, presidential palace, retired people’s park (yes this is as amazing as it sounds), and the central bank (to learn about the introduction of the US dollar to Ecuador).
We also stopped by the San Francisco square and church, as well as a museum with a mirador and great views of the virgin, as she watches God-like over her city.
It was then onto La Ronda, the bohemian or hipster area, and the most influential area in the old town. It’s also the party district so everything only opens from 5 pm onwards (sure who doesn’t love a good lie on).
We got to try local candies and juices, and Andrea was full of useful information and fun facts like on Equinox days (the shortest and longest days of the year) you can stand out in the sun at a certain time of day and cast no shadow, as the sun shines st such a direct angle. Eh, cool!
Hunt for a Hunchback:
The Basilica of the national vow in Quito is the largest neolithic Basilica in the Americas. I know SNORE! But to be honest it’s a really beautiful old church, one where you can climb right to the top of one of the bell towers (yay more heights!!) to get amazing views of the surrounding city.
Totally worth the stomach-churning, ladder-gripping climb. Plus, if you’re like Katie and me, you’ll just enjoy wandering around singing “The Bells of not Notre Dame”.
Send me an angel:
Standing high and impressive above the city, and seen from almost any point within it, is El Penecillo. Atop an already large hill, sits the statue of the Virgin of the Apocalypse. Here she watches every vigilante over the city, keeping its inhabitants safe, or so they believe. It’s worth noting that she also divides the city economically, with the affluent areas being in her line of sight, and her back turned to the poorer areas. Curious, no?
Anyway, take the journey up to see her and the unparalleled godseye views of Quito from where she stands. At the top, you will find vendors selling food, snacks and hot drinks. I was told you can go right up into the statue but unfortunately, I didn’t check the times and it was closed when I got there. Damn, mass!
NOTE: If you are a reader of the blog you will know that Katie and I are big advocates of doing DIY things, mostly on foot and not taking taxis etc. This time I am strongly advocating taking a taxi! We were warned by several locals to take a ride to the top as you need to pass through a fairly desolate area that is notorious for robberies and drug use, and there is no bus that goes to the top. Trust me, take the taxi. Locals know best, And if they won’t even venture up there, neither should we.
So, with all the above and more, let’s take a look at our finances.
Walking Tour: FREE
Basilica: $1 entry (x2)
Virgin: $1 entry (wasn’t open)
Almuerzo (2 course meal x 2): $4.50
Mora juice: $1
Local sweets: $0.35
So, we actually would have come in under budget if not for my sweet tooth. You guys can definitely do better!
Quito is a nice city but doesn’t place high in our favourites. However, I would recommend that anyone see it, and at least spend the night. As you can read, it is possible to do it quickly, painlessly and relatively cheaply.
Things to Note:
Legit cabs should be yellow with orange plates. They must all display the number on the side of the car and be equipped with internal CCTV and a panic button. There have allegedly been some reports of fake taxis robbing people. Head on a swivel guys!
Banco Pichincha is the only ATM in Ecuador that won’t charge additional fees, on top of what your bank charges.
We normally don’t pay heed to whispers of worry, but the rumour of bag slashes is pretty real here. When travelling via public transport; metro lines or regional buses, always keep your carry-on bag on your lap. Even on an overnight bus. You will notice that the locals too hold all their belongings close. Avoid the misfortune of the thief behind cutting into your bag from under the seat, or (sometimes!) the vendors and beggars pick-pocketing. This is not to scare you, and thankfully we didn’t witness nor suffer any issues but take the warning and be a little bit aware. Unlike other countries, where we’d happily stuff our bags over top or underneath and stare or sleep soundly, in Quito (and Ecuador in general) we clamped tight, slightly sleep-deprived and urge you to do the same.
As always drop me a line if there’s anything I missed or just to say hi!