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Getting Around Ecuador

By Plane

A few carriers provide domestic air service in Ecuador.

Tame
(URL: www.tame.com.ec) has the most extensive schedule. From Quito, it flies to Baltra (Galápagos), Coca, Cuenca, Cumbaratza, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, Lago Agrio, Macas, Manta, San Cristóbal (Galápagos), Santa Rosa, Tena and Tulcán. From Guayaquil, Tame has flights to Cuenca, Esmeraldas, Loja, Latacunga and Quito.

Aerogal (URL: www.aerogal.com.ec) flies from Quito to Baltra (Galápagos), Coca, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Manta and San Cristóbal (Galápagos); and from Guayaquil, to Quito and the two Galápagos airports.

Lan Ecuador (URL: www.lan.com) offers services from Quito to Baltra (Galápagos), Cuenca, Guayaquil and San Cristóbal (Galápagos). From Guayaquil, it flies to Quito and the Galápagos.

Flying within Ecuador is not always cheap considering the short distance from point-to-point, but it can save you hours of travel time. For example, a flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes about 50 minutes and costs $90-200 round trip, while the bus takes over 7 hours (each way) and costs about $24 round trip. A flight from Quito to Lago Agrio, the jump-off point to the Cuyabeno National Reserve in the Amazon, takes 30 minutes and costs $110-130 round trip as opposed to the six- to eight-hour bus ride on shoddy roads that costs $20 round trip. There are also only very specific times this flight is available.

Student and senior discounts may apply for both land and air travel, so be sure to ask. It is easiest to stop at a travel agency to book your flight, but be sure to call the airline to confirm a couple of days before you travel.

By Bus
Traveling by bus is the most common method of transportation for Ecuadorians as well as the cheapest and often the most convenient. Long-distance buses charge $1 per hour on average, slightly more for the Ejecutivo or First-Class buses. Bus drivers, especially in the sierra, are fearless. If you have a queasy stomach, sit near the front, but you may not want to sit at the very front where you can see exactly what the driver is doing. Sometimes it is better not to know! Most long-distance buses are equipped with DVD players and TVs so you can enjoy Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more action stars dubbed in Spanish as you speed around curvaceous two-lane mountain roads. Ecuadorian bus drivers tend to like action flicks, so don't get your hopes up for anything in the line of sappy dramas or romantic comedies.

The major cities have extensive public bus service. Buses in Quito cost $0.25 and fall under two categories: the regular buses and the trolleys or trams. The EcovĂ­a, the Trole and the Metro Bus System run north and south and then have extension routes that stretch out farther into the valleys and neighborhoods to the north and south. Other buses weave throughout the city and can be confusing for travelers, especially those not fluent in Spanish. The best way to orient yourself on these buses is by reading the major destinations on the placards on the front window of the bus, and asking the driver and/or driver's assistant if they will be passing by your destination. The buses are numbered, but in no apparent order: it is best to ignore the numbers and focus on the placards.

Viajero Contento (URL: www.latinbus.com) lists all the Ecuador bus, train and flight schedules. It covers more than 2,600 routes and 25,000 departures all over the country. For a small yearly fee, you receive phone numbers and other contact information for over 300 bus companies, airlines and the national railroad.

By Train
The construction of a railway from the sierra to the coast in 1873 was initiated by President Gabriel García Moreno. The 461-kilometer (288-mi) line from Durán on the coast to Quito, which took 35 years to complete, was essential for commerce and trade within the country. The El Niño phenomenon of 1993 destroyed the Riobamba-Durán line at Río Chanchán, near Aluasí.

In 2008, the federal government initiated an intense program to bring the Quito-Durán and Otavalo-San Lorenzo trains back online. At present, several tourist routes operate, some using steam locomotives while others use ferrobuses. The most popular thrill ride is the El Nariz del Diablo (the Devil's Nose), a 12-kilometer (7-mi) series of switch back rails between Alausi and Sibambe. Ferrocarriles del Ecuador lists the timetables and prices for these trips on its website (Tel: 1-800-873-637, URL: www.trenecuador.com/en

By Taxi
In Quito and Guayaquil, taxis will be an important way for you to get around. They are quite cheap, reliable and safe. There are a few rules and tips you need to familiarize yourself with first, however. Before you get in the cab, you should agree on the price for your destination. Never simply get in and ask how much the ride costs once you get to your destination. The rate will go up if you're sitting in the back seat when you begin to negotiate. City buses stop running about 8 p.m. or so, and after that it is safest to travel in taxis, even for very short distances.

In Quito (but not in Guayaquil), taxis are required to have a taximetro (taxi meter), which measures how much the passenger must pay. Generally, the drivers keep it in the center of the dashboard, below the radio. During the daytime, the taxis must use the meter if the passenger asks. Especially in the Mariscal or when dealing with foreigners, some less scrupulous taxis will hide it or claim that it doesn't work. Rule of thumb: once you flag down a cab, ask to see the taximetro before you get in. If the driver starts mumbling something about it being broken, wave him on and get the next cab.

There are some exceptions: Taxis at the airport are not required to use the taximeter and negotiate directly with passengers. They'll charge as much as they can, so if you don’t have much baggage, cross the street and catch a cab there. After 9 p.m., Quito cabs are allowed to disconnect their taximetros and wheel and deal with passengers. Expect to pay about a dollar more than you would for the same trip in the daytime.

Hitchhiking
In a country full of pickup trucks, hitchhiking is a fairly common way to get around, especially in small towns and the jungle where there is no established bus system. Some drivers, especially in the larger pickup trucks with seats and wooden walls to block the wind, will charge a small fee. You should always ask about price before hopping in. Although hitchhiking is more common in Ecuador than in many other countries, it is still not guaranteed to be safe. Use common sense, especially if you are a woman or traveling alone.

By Car and Motorcycle
The general philosophy of drivers in Ecuador is, “I have the right of way.” In practice, whoever is bigger goes first. As a result, you will hear lots of horns blaring, brakes screeching, insults flying and pedestrians running for their lives. That said, renting a car while you are traveling in Ecuador has its advantages. There are many spots where buses dare not venture and can only be reached by four-wheel drive, on bicycle or by foot. In order to legally drive in Ecuador, you need an international driver’s license used in conjunction with a driver’s license from your home country. It’s a good idea to also have good insurance coverage. Four car rental companies operate in Ecuador, including:

Avis: www.avis.com.ec

Budget: www.budget-ec.com

Hertz: www.hertz.com

Localiza: www.localiza.com

For motorcycle rentals, check out Ecuador Freedom Bike (www.freedombikerental.com), which offers itineraries and the whole package for multi-day trips throughout the country.

You'll need to rent a car or motorcycle in one of the larger cities in Ecuador: Cuenca, Guayaquil or Quito.

By Bike
A lot of enthusiasts choose to travel the Ecuadorian landscape on a mountain bike, just make sure when you travel you have a bike-repair kit, because there will be obstacles along the way. It's best to buy your kit at home, for the only place in Ecuador with bike parts is Quito, and even those stores have a limited supply. Quito is also the only place to buy bikes, and they're usually pretty expensive. It would seem that Ecuador is not the most biker-friendly nation. However, on Sundays in Quito the busy streets are shut down so peddler enthusiasts can cruise through the city at ease.

By Boat
Boats will navigate through the far-reaching areas of the jungle not accessible by any other mode of transportation. For this reason, traveling by boat may be inescapable if you're visiting the Amazon. Canoes are usually dugouts, following the techniques of ancient Amazonian traditions, and can transport up to a couple dozen travelers. Be sure to bring something to sit on and some sunscreen, as six hours in a canoe can leave you with burns and a sore bottom.

Because of the variety of tour companies in the Amazon, you may choose to go by canoe, or for more comfort, by yacht. Yachts also frequent the Galapagos. If you choose to bring your own yacht, you'll most likely have to dock in for the remainder of your stay on the islands, as there are strict limitations on boater licenses. Tour companies operate boats that range from simple sailboats to yachts with private bathrooms and air-conditioning.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Getting Around Vilcabamba, Getting to and Away, Getting Around Montañita, Getting Around Tena, Pico y Placa, Moving House, Getting to and away from Puerto Quito, Getting to and away from Peguche, Getting to and away from Muisne and Getting to and away from Bahía de Caráquez.








24 Sep 2015




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