Ecuador: Travel Guide & Tips

In our post Ecuador: Montanita and Quito, we took you through our experience traveling through the mainland of Ecuador. Here is a guide to help you navigate Ecuador and some tips & tricks to make your experience more enjoyable!

Montañita

Montañita is a fun party beach town. If you are planning to hire a driver (as we did) and go straight to Montañita from the airport, request not to drive through Guayaquil, since it’s out of the way and will cost you extra time.

Accommodations

We stayed at Nativa Bambu Ecolodge:

Photo from their website: nativabambu.com
Photo from their website: nativabambu.com

We recommend this place because of the very sweet owner, the included breakfast, the beautiful property, the great location, and the gorgeous room and views, all for about $75 per night.

Side view of our bungalow
View of our bungalow

What to Do

Montañita is a lot of fun. Walk along the beach and down the main street, shop in the street markets, and enjoy cheap drinks, both on the beach and from the drink carts lined down a main street.

beach drinks montanita
From strawberry daiquiris on the beach…
Drink cart montanita
…to cocktails on the street!

Check out the beach bars that have sand floors and cheap drinks ($2 beers!). If you’re in the mood for something different, check out Alcatraz, a touristy bar that looks pretty creepy:

alcatraz montanita

Food

The food was pretty inexpensive, but not the most delicious. One of our favorite restaurants was El Diablo – a Mexican themed restaurant. Check out their nachos, guacamole, and homemade salsa.

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Quito

Budget accommodations:

If you’re looking for some simple accommodations with a good location, here are some ideas:

Suggested Itinerary for 1 full day in Quito:

El Teleferico

  • Can take a taxi
  • Go in the morning to get the best views
  • $8 to take the cable car ride up the mountainteleferico

Centro Historico/La Ronda

  • Walk around, work up an appetite and go for lunch
  • More traditional; historic streets
  • Good restaurants in the Centro Historico area:
    • Mosaico: really cool restaurant on top of the hill
      • you could also go at night so you can see all the lights in Quitoquito views
    • Panecillo – the restaurant on the top of the hill where the angel is10406621_10203706550081446_6967136119194038467_n
  • Some of the sights you can see while exploring the area:
    • Plaza and Monastery of San Francisco: the oldest plaza in the area
    • Plaza de la Independencia (aka Plaza Grande)
    • La Compañía de Jesús: pay the $2 (student price, or $4 adult) to go inside! It’s gorgeous
    • La Ronda: a cobblestone pedestrian street
    • La Basilica: big cathedral
      • can climb to the top for great views; go in the morning for a better view

Explore the Artisanal Market (outside Foch)

If you have time, check out:

  • Otavalo market
    • It’s a really cool place, but it’s more than 2 hours there and 2 hours back from Quito and it’s pretty much a whole day commitment
    • You could also do Otavalo as part of a day tour to the Equator line; costs less than $50
  • Museo de Arte Colonial in the historic district
  • Hike El Teleferico – about 5 hours from where the cable car drops you off
    • You can also pay for a horse ride!
    • If you’re not used to the altitude, this hike may be tougher than you expect

Nightlife in Quito

If you have the energy, you should go out at night! Quito has a really fun night life. Here are some suggestions we have:

  • Go out in Foch!
    foch yeah

    • All the bars and clubs there are a blast*
    • Bars we suggest:
      • Fragola – there’s a hookah bar on the 2nd floor
      • Cherruskers – artisanal beer
      • Chupitos – cheap shot bar
      • Safari – a fun, African-themed bar owned by a 7 ft tall, very friendly Nigerian man named Jaja
    • Clubs:
      • No bar
      • Attic
      • Tequila Sunrise
      • Bungalow 6
    • Foch is a really small place, only a couple of blocks around, so it’s easy to navigate
    • *Be cautious going out in Foch. Stick together and don’t bring your iPhones, credit cards, or large amounts of cash out, because pick-pocketing is a big thing here
    • Remember to bring ID and a minimal amount of cash ($40); drinks are cheap
  • You should also go out around La Ronda in Centro Historico
    • We wish we had time to go out in this area; we heard there are some really cool bars with live music and canelazos (delicious typical Ecuadorian hot drink)
      • This would be more of a “chill” night
  • Go to dinner somewhere in the main plaza
    • We enjoyed a Mexican restaurant called Red Hot Chili Peppers with delicious blackberry margaritas

The Equator

  • You can’t skip the equator in Ecuador! Ask your driver to take you there on the way to the airport
  • The “equator” is a little confusing; there are 2 separate spots: a monument and the official equator line. Both are worth a trip
  • Logistics:
    • Our cab ride from Foch → equator → monument → Airport was about $60
    • Note: International airline check-in didn’t start until noon on Sunday for some reason, so we had to wait quite a while

Essential Info

General Tips

  • Download a translator app to help you communicate if you don’t speak Spanish.
  • While they are making major renovations to the airport and the surrounding area, I’d still plan for extra time to get to and from the airport.

Weather

  • When planning your trip, make sure you know what to expect in terms of weather. We didnt’ realize that Montañita is not sunny in November and were not happy about it
  • DO NOT trust the weather app! It says it’s always thunder-storming and cold near Quito and Baños, but it’s not accurate. We wished we would’ve ignored the app and gone to Banos!
  • Quito was a lot warmer than we thought, but pack layers. It can get chilly in the shade and at night. During the day, however, we were too hot in pants and “had” to buy shorts from a local market

Getting Around

Quito is a lot more walk-able than our research lead us to believe. If you enjoy walking between spots in large cities like NYC or Chicago, you won’t find the sites in Quito too far away to warrant a bus or a cab. Everything in the historic district is walk-able, but we even walked from El Teleferico back to our hostel in Mariscal. During daylight we felt perfectly safe.

Getting to the Galapagos from Montañita

You can take a 2.5 hour bus from Montañita to Guayaquil. You can ask your hotel to purchase the bus tickets or buy them yourself; they’ll cost about $6 each; then it will be a $5 cab ride from the bus terminal to the airport.

Have you been to Ecuador? Have other sites or recommendations to share? Disagree with our recommendations? Leave a comment!

Read Next: Galapagos: Travel Guide and Backpack the Galapagos? Yes You Can!

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