Ecuador offers a diverse landscape that offers mountains, beaches, jungle, and wildlife. Because of its unique landscape, Ecuador offers many activities for adventure seekers and nature lovers.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital, and at 9,350 feet, it is the highest official capital of the world. I had a wonderful time on my 4-day trip to Quito. Below are some things I learned that may be helpful to those traveling to Quito, Ecuador.
1. You do not need a customs or immigration form to enter the country (at least from the US) unless you have something to declare. This is nice and convenient BUT…
2. The airport can be crazy so be patient. There are so many late flights coming in from the US that the immigrations/customs can get backed up very quickly. My flight was delayed and arrived at 1 am on a Thursday morning. Even at the late hour, the lines for immigrations and customs were insane! The customs line even wrapped around the baggage claim area 10 times because there were only 2 X-Ray machined to scan all the bags. There is nothing you can do when you are in that situation but to wait patiently and power through. My entire immigrations and customs process took 1.5 hours to clear.
3. There is no wifi at the immigration/customs area. If you need to get a hold of someone picking you up, you may need to use your home mobile plan.
4. Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. Dollar bills are rare so you will probably get change back in dollar coins (which are rare in the US). Sometimes you get change back in Ecuador coins (like the 50c coins). Make sure you spend those before you leave.
5. Bring enough cash. Most places (including touristy places) do not accept credit cards because of the fees. Cash is king here.
6. Taxis are cheap. Typical rides are just a few USD. Usually you would negotiate the price before you get in. If your taxi driver wants to use the meter make sure he/she doesn’t take you the long way…If you are worried Uber is available1
7. The famous attraction in Quito is the Middle of the World City, or La Mitad del Mundo. This is where they built a city around the equator and included all these exhibits/attractions. This place is really big (cuz it’s a city…). Make sure you allow enough time to go into the exhibits. The full pass costs $7.50 and will get you into the city, the main museum (Monumento Ecuatorial) where you can climb to the top to get a view if Quito. Other attractions for the full pass include the Museo de la Cerveza (you learn about beer making and you can try the locally brewed beer too), the Plaza del Cacao (learn about chocolate making and buy some too), and Viviendas Ancestrales (ancestral homes on display). Honestly, I do not know why they would want to make people pay for these exhibits – they are nothing special. If anything get the pass to go into the monument. There is a museum inside that explains the science of the earth and the equator. Also you can learn about the origins of the local people.
8. While the La Mitad del Mundo is a famous attraction it isn’t where the real equator is. The original measurements were off, and by the time they found out, the monument/city was already built. Oops. For the real equator you will need to visit Museo Inti Nan, about 5 minutes walk outsideLa Mitad del Mundo (exit park, turn left and follow signs). The entrance fee is $4. This includes a guided tour to take you through the museum of the local people, their homes, and the science behind the equator. There is this interactive session where you can attempt to walk the equator line with your eyes closed, try to balance an egg on the line, and watch a demo of water draining on the equator and the N and S hemispheres. At the end of the tour you can put a Middle of the World stamp on your passport so make sure you bring your passport!
9. Quito is really high! Its elevation of 9,350 feet may cause discomfort for those coming from lower altitudes. Because of the altitude make sure to drink lots of liquids and get lots of rest to get acclimated. Also don’t overdo it with eating greasy/fatty foods for the first few days.
10. Gas/petro is subsidized by the government and therefore it is super cheap. Food for thought for those who want to drive.