travel in Ecuador offers great views and a cultural experience.
bus journey is also a chance to meet people and practise your Spanish
Bus Travel in
Ecuador is a great way to see the widely varying landscapes.
Public transport is
affordable and accessible and is how much of the population travels.
The bus service is extensive with routes to almost
all parts of the country, and is an economic way to get to most of the
tourist attractions in Ecuador.
Although there is not necessarily a
bus timetable as such (this is Ecuador!), buses depart frequently for
all major destinations and a lot of minor ones too.
Travelling by bus is also a good way to meet the locals or to
practise your Spanish. The nine hour journey from Quito to
Guayaquil, or vice versa, is an excellent introduction to a great
cross-section of the country.
journeys within city
or town limits are usually 25 centavos, regardless of how many stops
you travel. Regular buses are a challenge for
tourists since you need to find the right bus route and recognise when
you've arrived at your destination, though if you have a city
map and enough
Spanish to ask for assistance, people will usually point you in the
right direction. Sometimes you pay as you get on the bus,
sometimes as you get off. Or sometimes they will come around
and collect the fares. So have your $0.25 ready.
Quito, the 3 north to
south articulated bus lines along 6
de Diciembre (the red bendy buses of the EcoVia), 10 de Agosto
(the Trolé) and Avenida America (the Metro) have clearly
labelled stops in the middle of the road so you can count the stops to
your destination. These also cost $0.25, paid on
entry to the bus stop: put coins in the
turnstile for the EcoVia, pay on entry for the Metro or buy a token to
put in the turnstile for the Trolé.
Don't try to go in the Salida (exit), you will just
make yourself look daft. The Entrada (entrance) is the end
you need. At the terminals at each end of these main lines,
feeder buses (alimentadores) go off to various different neighbourhoods
(barrios), all included in the same fare.
journeys in Ecuador generally cost around $1 an hour, as a rough guide.
Most long distance buses have a TV, usually showing films
involving ludicrous plotlines,
explosions, car chases and violence, sometimes accompanied by
loud music on the radio
as well. This is very much part of the culture. If
you buy your
ticket before boarding, it will have a seat number on it and other
passengers will expect you to sit in your allocated seat.
Seat numbers are not always clearly marked, but V indicates
ventana (window) and P is for pasillo (aisle).
long bus journeys,
luggage is usually stowed in the lockers under the bus.
Some bus companies will give you a receipt for your bag, but
not all. Don't leave valuables in your luggage,
keep them with you in a daypack, on your lap or the back of
the seat in front of you, not on the floor or on the overhead shelf.
services take good care of your luggage and theft of bags from the
luggage compartment is not common. You are more likely to
have problems with bags getting dusty or wet, depending on weather
conditions - line your backpack or case with a plastic bag.
Avoid having your luggage stowed on the roof, as the honesty
of any passengers travelling on the roof cannot be guaranteed and is
beyond the control of the bus company.
terminal (Terminal Terrestre) is much better than it used to be and is
relatively easy to find your way around. Quito's
old bus station, situated in a pit in the Old Town at
Cumandá, has now (since 2009) been replaced by two
Make sure you get the correct one for your journey, as it
will take a couple of hours to get to the other one (see below).
also another northern terminal at La
Ofelia, reached by the Metro
buses along Avenida America,
for destinations within Pichincha Province including Mindo
Carcelén, in the north of Quito,
is for the
relatively few destinations in the north and northwest of the country,
such as Otavalo and Ibarra in the province of Imbabura, and
Tulcán in the province of Carchi. A taxi from the
tourist area of town will cost around $8 and take about 40 minutes.
Alternatively, take the feeder buses from the northern end of
the Trolé or Metro bus lines for just 25 or 30
centavos. It's best not to attempt the city centre
part of these bus routes with luggage at rush hour - take a taxi to the
terminal at La Y (for the Trolé) for $2 or
$3 and then get the feeder bus from there. There is a $0.20
fee to the Carcelén terminal. While the terminal
usually efficient and easy to use, be aware that on bank holiday
weekends, you may need to queue for an hour or more to get a bus, and
there is virtually no shade, so be prepared in order to avoid sunburn.
There are several ticket windows, each run by a different
company, so be sure you are in the right queue!
Terrestre Quitumbe, way
in the south of Quito, is
much larger and serves
destinations to the south of Quito, i.e. most of the country.
Getting to Quitumbe is a pain in the neck. So far,
only a couple of regular buses and the Trolé have a service
out to Quitumbe, this is usually packed with no seats available and no
space for luggage - a nightmare journey with a heavy backpack.
Allow about 2 hours for the trip on public transport.
A taxi from the tourist area to Quitumbe will probably cost
around $12 (more from 9p.m. to 6a.m.) and you should allow about 60 to
90 minutes for the journey.
The best plan is probably to ask around in your hostel to
find other passengers to share a taxi. Alternatively, see
if you can find an enterprising travel agent offering a budget transfer
service to Quitumbe.
terminals are popular
locations for pickpockets and thieves. Be alert,
don't let go of your bags and don't fall for any
scams such as strangers offering to take your bag to the bus for you,
wipe dirt off your sleeve, open the bus window for you, or stow your
daypack in the overhead
bus travel in
Ecuador is not recommended, for safety and security reasons.
Tired drivers and limited visibility are not a good
combination, and assaults on overnight buses have occurred.
You don't see the scenery at night and whilst you
might save on the cost of a hotel, you really will not get any sleep
and will lose the whole of the next day recovering. (Trust
me, I've tried it).
distance buses stop
for meal breaks, though some drivers have very random
ideas about meal times. Vendors may board the
bus but this can't be relied on so pack a few snacks.
Really long bus journeys, such as the 16 hours
or so from Quito to Loja, can be so daunting that you might consider a domestic
flight a worthwhile
in the Costa open sided buses are
sometimes used. These are known as chivas or rancheras and
are actually rows of hard wooden seats mounted on a truck chassis.
You often have to climb over other passengers to get in or
out. (Chivas are also used during the fiestas
of Quito as a form of mobile
party with a live band
on top). Between tiny villages with no bus service, it is
sometime possibles to get a ride on the milk lorry (lechero) which will
charge for the service - ask locals for information about alternatives
to bus travel.
vocabulary for bus
travel in Ecuador:
Terminal Terrestre: bus station
Entrada: entrance Salida:
Parada: bus stop
Alimentador: feeder (bus)
Chiva/Ranchera: open-sided "bus" (seats
mounted on a truck chassis) mostly used in the Costa
Travel in Ecuador
Notes on travelling by bus service, chiva or ranchera; public transport
Ecuador; bus stations and terminals in Quito & Guayaquil.
guidebooks published before September 2009 will almost certainly have
out of date information about Quito's main bus station.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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