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Quito is very easy to get around, and orientation is always easy because the massive 15,000 foot Pichincha Volcanos is always to the West of the city.
How the street numbering system works:
All streets north of the colonial center are lettered “N” and numbered in sequence. Streets running south of this divide are lettered “S”. The systems east-west axis is La Avenida 10 de Agosto. Streets running east of the axis are lettered “E” and streets running west are lettered “O” (for oeste). Street numbers are followed by a dash and then the house or building number, e.g., N17-31 or E22-77.
Once you know where you are going, Quito’s tremendous transportation system makes the city easy to navigate. Buses and taxis are abundant, and the recent addition of the pedestrian and environment friendly Trolebús, Metrobús and EcoVia, the transportation system has been even further improved. Buses and taxis can take you just about anywhere, while the Trolebús and EcoVia run north-south and serve the west and east sides of Quito respectively. The Trolebús has its northern terminus station located at La “Y” (where 10 de Agosto and America unite), and southern terminus station located at Quitumbe (where the new inter-provincial bus terminal is located and has buses departing to several different areas around country) passing by the El Recreo shopping mall along the way.
The EcoVia stretches north-south on Avenida 6 de Diciembre, with it’s northern terminus station being Rio Coca and southern terminus station being La Marin in the Old Town. Some of the EcoVia buses head past the La Marin terminal and go all the way to the Quitumbe bus terminal, passing El Recreo along the way like the Trolebús.
The Metrobúus moves down América, which to the north of La “Y” becomes La Prensa and then – passing the Del Maestro stop – becomes Diego Vásquez de Cepeda Ave. and takes you all the way to the northern terminus station known as La Ofelia. From here, it’s possible to take any one of several feeder buses that shuttle you to the northern Inter-provincial bus terminal in Carcelén. Once there, you can take any one of several buses that head to the northern areas of the country.
Quito’s buses are almost always jammed packed and commonly spew black diesel smoke that leaks into the cabin. Furthermore, watch your stuff when riding popular buses, wandering hands frequently probe your belongings. That said, you can get to just about anywhere in Quito cheaply (USD 0.25) via a bus.
Taxis, taxis, taxis, everywhere. You should never have a problem finding one of our little yellow friends, but beware given that some are more genial and honest than others. The taximetro (the little black box tacked underneath the dashboard) should always be used, and if the taxista isn’t using it, ask him to. The minimum for a ride is USD 1.00. At night taxistas almost never use the meter and generally charge a minimum of USD 2. If the driver doesn’t want to use the meter, get out and find another taxi or negotiate a reasonable fare before he sets off. Note that fare negotiation with taxi drivers is practically an Ecuadorian custom. A couple of extra tips: If it’s raining, the it’s best to call a cab given that, aside from the city getting congested with traffic, all of the taxis tend to be occupied and full under the rain. During rush hour, it’s also best to negotiate the price prior to being driven around the city, especially since traffic can have you sitting amid cars as the taxi meter keeps rolling, considerably racking up the cost of your trip.
Since February 2013, Quito has a new international airport officially called: Aeropuerto Mariscal Sucre (UIO). The new airport is located in Tababela, a small town in the valleys that are to the south east of Quito proper. Thirty-five buses depart daily every 20-30 minutes from Avenida De Los Granados (by Avenida Simon Bolivar) and head towards the airport. The cost can vary from $8 to $12 per person, including the baggage you’re taking with you. There’s also a new lane in construction (set to be finished in early 2014) that will cut down on travel time to and from the airport considerably. Taxis also go to the airport but they’re rather expensive. Your best bet is to hire or coordinate to have some kind of private transport (be it a friend or chauffeur) take you there.
Quito previously had one central bus station called Cumanda, but now has two major inter provincial stations one in the north and one in the south.
Carcelen is Quito’s northern bus station, which serves Otavalo, Ibarra, Mindo, Esmeraldas, and other destinations to the north of Quito. See complete information about Quito’s Carcelen bus station here.
Quitumbe is Quito’s southern bus station serving Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, Baños, Latacunga and other destinations to the South of Quito. Here’s a complete listing of destinations, bus companies, price and bus times from Quito’s Quitumbe station.
La Estacion Chimbacalle, Quito’s one and only train station, is rather quaint but has been recently renovated. Until the Liberal Revolution and the significant development of transportation infrastructure that accompanied it, the train was – for all practical purposes – the only mode of long distance transport in Ecuador.
Chimbacalle is located on Calle Maldonado deep within Old Quito, south of the historic center and several kilometers from the New City. The easiest way to get to the station is on the Trolebús. Just head south along the line, and it’ll drop you off at the stop (the one that’s aptly named Chimbacalle) that’s just a few blocks from the train station itself.
Unfortunately, you need to actually go to Chimbacalle to buy tickets. Previously, passengers could ride on the roof of the train, but after a tragic accident involving the death of several individuals, this option became prohibited. Up until recently, the train system was in disarray and nearly abandoned for several years, but with a new and passionate interest in tourism, Ecuador has revived what remained of their tracks and has even begun expanding them. By the end of 2013, the plan is to allow travelers head all the way down to the coast to Guayaquil from Quito via train. Currently, there are several round-trip package deals that let you travel to small towns around the highlands within a couple of hours. For information, check out www.ecuadorbytrain.com
Trains do not run nearly as frequently as buses and almost everyone prefers to take the train over a bus for long journeys. The ticket counter is open daily from 8:30 to 16:00 but employees regularly take lengthy, unscheduled breaks. The phone number of Chimbacalle is 1-800-873-637. There is also an administrative office on Calle Simón Bolívar in the Centro Histórico but you cannot buy tickets there.
For more information on transportation in Ecuador go to the EcuadorExplorer.com’s transportation section.