If you will be in Quito for more than a month or two, you may want to rent an apartment. A nice two-bedroom (by Northern standards) in a decent neighborhood goes for around $250 to $400 unfurnished and $300 to $600 furnished. Of course you can also pay upwards of U$1,000 and get a gigantic place with a jacuzzi and French doors overlooking Guápulo, or pay $100 for a dump in a shady neighborhood that you will share with plenty of rodents. Also, note that most apartments come unfurnished and that you will pay significantly more for a furnished apartment.
If you arrive without prearranged accommodations, you’re options for the first few days are to either stay in a hostel or in a homestay. Hostels in Quito’s Mariscal District (where most foreigners stay) will run you from $7 per person / per night for shared room / bathroom, on upwards. Its benefits are in its affordability and its flexibility (i.e., you can stay as little or as long as you wish and leave without prior notice). Rooms in a hostel or residencial (boarding house) are significantly cheaper in the Centro Histórico.
Homestays, are another option for your first days or a long term stay in Quito, usually charging $15-25 per person / per day, homestays are the ultimate in convenience as your host family normally will offer you a clean, private room in a nice home; good, home-cooked meals (usually); and other amenities such as laundry service, telephone and TV. Not to mention that they are normally quite friendly and, therefore, provide you with the chance to practice your Spanish, meet new friends and learn the local customs in comfortable surroundings. In the end, most people who choose to live with a host family find the experience to be very rewarding and typically form long-lasting relationships with their host families.
Once you have found a place to lay your head while you get your bearings and decide where you want to live, how much you’re willing to pay for an apartment or other lodging, you can begin to calmly search for your ideal apartment. To do so, you should look in El Comercio’s Sunday edition and on the bulletin boards in Internet cafes in La Mariscal and on the message board at the South American Explorers. It also doesn’t hurt to take a walk around the neighborhoods where you think you may want to live. Land owners often place signs outside their vacant apartments rather than paying to advertise in newspapers.
If cheap and plentiful sounds too good to be true, well it is. You are not out of the woods until you surmount the infamous Gringo Tax (the doubling or tripling of prices the minute someone determines you are from Europe or North America). Apartment hunting becomes slightly trickier if you are like me and don’t like being charged several times the market rate. To get around the Gringo Tax try to get an Ecuadorian friend to come along with you when you find a place you like. Ecuadorians know more or less what the apartment should go for and will be aghast if the dueño asks for too much.
As you scan the Internet café bulletin boards and the classified ads, you will also run across the opportunity to share an apartment with other foreigners (or sometimes Ecuadorians). This is a good option if you’re looking to cut down on costs or are not interested in living by yourself. Apartment sharing also gives you the opportunity to get to know people like yourself who are studying, volunteering, working or just hanging out in Quito.
*Please keep in mind that if you’re looking for an extremely cheap apartment to rent, there is little a real estate agent can do for you, as only the owners of mid- to high-range apartments list vacancies with real estate agents. Accordingly, if you’re looking for the bare minimum, plan on staying in a cheap hostel while scouring El Comercio and bulletin boards for a good deal. If however, you don’t mind spending a little more or living with a host family, María can definitely help you find what you’re looking for.