Destination guide: Quito, Ecuador
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is in the Andes, about 2,800 meters above sea level. Walking through its streets, you can see the contrasts between its old buildings, which combine both contemporary and colonial elements. Quito’s inhabitants are very hospitable to tourists, making it the perfect destination for your vacation. Ask about our offers for tickets to Quito and fly with LAN Airlines.
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Quito - Practical Information
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Most travelers entering Ecuador as tourists, including citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the EU, Canada and the USA, do not require visas. Upon entry, they will be issued a T-3 embarkation card valid for 90 days. Sixty-day stamps are rarely given, but double-check if youre going to be in the country for a while. Residents of most Central American and some Asian countries require visas. All travelers entering as diplomats, students, laborers, religious workers, businesspeople, volunteers and cultural-exchange visitors require nonimmigrant visas. Various immigrant visas are also available.
Obtaining a visa is time-consuming, so commence the process as far ahead of your visit as possible. Visas enable holders to apply for a censo (temporary-residence card) and pay resident prices in national parks, as well as on trains and planes. Visas must be obtained from an Ecuadorian embassy and cannot be arranged within Ecuador. All (nontourist) visa holders must register at the Dirección General de Extranjería ([tel] 02-223-1022/3; cnr 10 de Agosto & General Murgeón, Edificio Autorepuestos, 4th fl; [hrs] 8am-1pm Mon-Fri) in Quito within 30 days of arrival in Ecuador. If visa holders wish to leave the country and return, they need a salida (exit) form from the Jefatura Provincial de Migración, which can be used for multiple exits and re-entries. Visa holders who apply for residency need to get an exit permit from the immigration authorities in Quito before they leave the country.
Each traveler is able to import 1L of spirits, 300 cigarettes and a reasonable amount of perfume, all items are duty-free. There is no problem bringing in the usual personal belongings, but if you plan on bringing in something that might not be considered a usual personal belonging you should check with an Ecuadorian consulate.
Pre-Columbian artifacts and endangered-animal products (including mounted butterflies and beetles) are not allowed to be taken out of Ecuador or imported into most other countries.
Ecuador’s second largest city after Guayaquil, Quito spreads along the floor of a high Andean valley in a roughly north south direction. The Centro Histórico (historical center) holds nearly all of Quito’s famous colonial architecture; locals call it El Centro, and English speakers the old town.
The north is modern Quito, the new town, with all major businesses and services. Most hotels and restaurants are found here, especially in the travelers ghetto of the Mariscal Sucre (aka the Mariscal), where many foreigners eat, sleep and drink. The northern end of the city contains the airport and the middle and upper class residential areas. Avenida Amazonas is the best known street, although Avenida 10 de Agosto and Avenida 6 de Diciembre are the most important thoroughfares.
The far south of Quito consists mainly of working-class residential areas. The surrounding hills and peaks make orienting yourself easy: Cruz Loma and the flanks of Volcán Pichincha are the massive mountains to the west of the city. If you stand facing them, north will be to your right; to the south looms the giant hilltop statue of La Virgen de Quito.
The bus terminal is directly south of the old town, about a 10-minute walk from the Plaza Grande. The best way into town from the airport is by taxi.
Quito’s streets are usually one-way: Calles Guayaquil and Venezuela head into the old town, and Calles García Moreno and Flores head out.
Budget & Costs
Costs in Ecuador have risen since the official currency was changed to the US dollar, but it’s still affordable. Budget travelers can get by on $20 per day, staying in the cheapest hotels, eating almuerzos (set lunches), cooking their own food and taking buses rather than taxis. Raise the ante to around $40 per day, and you can stay in modest but comfortable hotels, take cab rides when you’re feeling lazy, eat in better restaurants, visit museums, go out at night and cover the occasional $10 national park fee. Spending $50 to $70 per day will allow you to sleep and eat in style, plus partake in plenty of nightlife.
Things get expensive when you start adding tours (climbing, mountain biking, bird watching and other tours cost $35 to $80 per day), staying at jungle lodges or haciendas and priciest of all visiting the Galápagos Islands.
1L petrol: $0.54
1L bottled water: $0.80
Pilsener beer, store-bought: $1
Chochos (lupine beans) with toasted corn: $0.50
Souvenir T-shirt: $5-10
Bus travel per hour about $1
Set lunch $2-3.50
Short cab ride in Quito $2
Private language class per hour $5-7
One-way mainland flight $60-90
Telephone service is readily available throughout Ecuador and is operated, depending on where you are, by one of three regional companies: Andinatel (mainly in the highlands and Oriente), Pacifictel (mainly in the coastal lowlands) and Etapa (in Cuenca). These companies operate centros de llamadas (telephone call centers) in many towns.
Public street phones are also common. Some use phonecards, which are sold in convenient places such as newsagents. Others accept only coins. All but the most basic hotels will allow you to make local city calls.
International calls from an Andinatel, Pacifictel or Etapa office are as cheap as $0.35 per minute to the USA and $0.45 to the UK and Australia. Rates are 20% cheaper on Sunday and after 7pm on all other days. Internet cafes provide even cheaper net-to-phone services. Hotels that provide international phone connections very often surcharge extremely heavily. Collect (reverse-charge) calls are possible to a few countries that have reciprocal agreements with Ecuador; these agreements vary from year to year, so ask at the nearest telephone office. All telephone numbers in Ecuador have seven digits, and the first digit, except for cellular phone numbers, is always a 2. If someone gives you a six-digit number (which happens often), simply put a 2 in front of it.
Banks open at 8am and close between 2pm and 4pm Monday to Friday (though money-changing services usually stop around 2pm). Andinatel, Pacifictel and Etapa telephone call centers are almost invariably open 8am to 10pm daily. Post offices are generally open 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 1pm Saturday in major cities. In smaller towns they’ll close for lunch.
In Quito and Guayaquil, most stores and businesses of interest to tourists stay open from 9am to 7pm Monday through Friday, usually with an hour off for lunch (around 1pm). Government offices and businesses such as Amex are open from about 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, also with an hour off for lunch around 1pm. In smaller towns, especially in the hotter lowlands, lunch breaks of two hours are not uncommon. On Saturday, many stores and some businesses are open from 9am to noon. Stores in major shopping malls are open between 8am and 10pm daily.
Restaurant are generally open noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm. Bars usually open around 5pm and close between midnight and 2am.
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