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Ecuador Travel Notes
February - December 2009

Our Ecuador Inland Adventure Log

Note:  Ecuador uses US dollars as its currency.  All prices are in US dollars.

Books and Reference Material

Ecuador Cruiser's Guide

This is a small informal cruising guide, for sailboats visiting Ecuador.  It is centered on the Bahia de Caraquez area of Ecuador, but has a bunch of very good budget travel information for Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.  See especially the sections on Land Travel in Ecuador and Land Travel in South America.  Section 8.1 has a good description of a less-known path from Ecuador into northern Peru via the La Balsa border crossing, and a trip to Kuelap, the recently uncovered ruins in Northern Peru.
http://www.svsoggypaws.com/files/index.htm

Exploring Ecuador This site kept coming up in web searches.  Has a lot of information in English:  http://exploringecuador.com/

South America on a Shoestring

Another good pub from Lonely Planet.

Ecuador (Lonely Planet)

Another good pub from Lonely Planet.

Poor But Happy Website

http://www.poorbuthappy.com/ecuador/  This website kept coming up when Googling topics for Colombia.  But it also has a 'branch' on Ecuador.  It seems pretty active.  Would be a good place to search and to post questions.

Hostel Trail
Website

http://www.hosteltrail.com  The Hostel Trail maintains a great website for finding backpacker places all over South America, and some ’todo’ information once you get to a place.

Hostel World

http://www.hostelworld.com  An online booking site for many hostels in South America.

English News of Ecuador

We often overhear news on the TV or radio that we don't completely understand.  Here's a site that covers the major news stories in English: (haven't found one yet).  But you can go to translate.google.com and paste in the link to one of these two, and get a reasonable translation.  http://www.eluniverso.com/   http://www.hoy.com.ec/


Travel Agencies
If you have the time and flexibility, it is best to wait until you get 'in country', for the best prices.  But if you are on a schedule, with more money than time, book ahead.  Here's a place to start.
 

CarpeDM Adventures

http://www.carpedm.ca/
Affiliated with Secret Garden Hostal in Quito

Terra Diversa

http://www.terradiversa.com
In Cuenca, but has tour coverage for all of Ecuador and Peru.


Buses

Like other Latin American countries, Ecuador has a well-developed public transportation system with thousands of bus lines.  The price for a given route depends on the distance and the service level for the bus (luxury, etc).  We have heard that EVERY bus price is negotiable, so negotiate!

They do NOT have the well-developed system of dedicated shuttle vans for tourist trips on popular routes that we found in Guatemala.  But if you are starting in Quito, there is *some* direct transit vans, but at tourist prices, not backpacker prices.

We mainly used the advice from the hotel we were leaving from or going to, to figure out the best bus route/line.  Specific notes are included below in the city notes. Here are some notes on specific routes that we have experience with:

Bahia de Caraquez to Guayaquil - La Reina.

Guayaquil to Salinas / La Libertad (Shuttle Van). Ruta del Sol - runs hourly cars or vans between Guayaquil and Salinas (with a loop thru La Libertad) for $10 per person.  Leaves from behind the Ramada in Guayaquil (the Ramada is on the Malecon).  Leaves from downtown Salinas.

Guayaquil to Salinas / La Libertad (Bus) - The best bus company seems to be 'C.L.P.' (pronounced Say-la-pay in Spanish).  $3.30 for a 'directo' 'ejectivo' bus.  Takes about 2 hours.

Guayaquil to Quito Direct (Bus) - The best bus company is Transportes Ecuador.  They run a direct executive bus leaving hourly for most of the day.  It is an 8 hour trip, approx for $9 per person.  They don't have a website and the phone numbers we found in Lonely Planet and didn't seem to work.

Guayaquil to Cuenca (Shuttle Bus) - There is a perfectly good regular bus between Guayaquil and Cuenca, but we opted to take the smaller 'buseta' (shuttle bus) offered by OperAzuaytur.  $12 pp for the 3 1/2 hour trip.  http://www.operazuaytur.com/  In the green-roofed set of buildings just off the bus station.  Their office is at the far end (from the bus station).

 


Air Travel

LAN

LAN is the airline for South America.  Flights from Ecuador to the other South American destinations, and international destinations.  http://www.lan.com

Avianca

Avianca, a Colombian-based airline, also has a few Ecuador flights.  We used Avianca for some of our flying legs into and out of Ecuador, because they had a good website in English, would accept American credit cards, and had a comparable price to other airlines. 

Tame

An Ecuadorian airline.  Flights within Ecuador, including the Galapagos, and to a few international destinations.

Aerogal

Aerolineas Galapagos is mostly focused on getting tourists to and from the Galapagos Islands, but they also have some inter-Ecuador flights.


Quito
- Hotels
We have stayed in 2 places in Quito so far,
the rest are recommendations from other people

Name

Address

Phone

Description

Secret Garden

    A really cool backpacker place near the old town in Quito.  Has a great upstairs bar and can provide breakfast and dinner.  Great place to meet other travelers.  They have a Spanish School and a Travel Agency on premises.
http://www.secretgardenquito.com/
Reserve ahead, as they were nearly always chock full when we were there.
Also plan some time to visit their 'ranch' in Cotapaxi, near the volcano.
Colonial House Olmedo 4321 y
Vicente Leon in the San Blas section of Quito (near old town)
02-3163-350 Referred by Secret Garden, who was full, we found Colonial house to be 'entirely adequate'.  Reasonably priced, located near the old part of Quito.  Dante the owner speaks pretty good english.  Can do 'last minute' arrangements at cheaper prices for Galapagos cruises.
The Magic Bean Foch No. 681 (E5-08) y Juan Leon Mera 2-256-6181 Refered by a friend.  Restaurant, coffee house, and hostel
El Cafecito     Refered by a friend. In Mariscol.


Quito
- Eating

We enjoyed eating the daily meal at Secret Garden Hostal


Quito
– To Do

  Downtown, central square
  Take a taxi to the Teleferico and go up to the the viewpoint.  Very nice view of the entire valley and about 4 volcanoes.
   

Cuenca

Getting
There

Shuttle bus from Guayaquil $12 per person.  See bus section above.

 Hotel:

Casa Ordoñez.  Exceptional value... a US-style family run bed and breakfast for around $50 per night for a double/matrimonial with private bath.  Worth the extra money over typical budget hotels.  Great place to spend time with family. 2 blocks from central square.  http://www.casa-ordonez.com/

There are a bunch of more hotel recommendations for Cuenca in the Ecuador Cruiser's Guide.


Cuenca - Eating

Eucalyptus Cafe Good gringo food, everything from Thai to American-style hamburgers.  This is good hangout.  Reasonable prices, great service, great menu.  Live music several nights a week later in the evening.  http://www.cafeeucalyptus.com/
La Fornace GREAT pizzas at reasonable prices, and also great ice cream.
9-30 Gran Colombia (across from Eucalyptus Cafe), one block off the square.  Good-sized personal pan pizza is $3-$4.
El Pedregal Azteca Good variety of Mexican food.  Gran Colombia 10-29 (about 2 blocks from square) next to Santo Domingo church.  Has daily 'almuerzos' for $2.10 pp.
Tiestos Recommended by another traveler as "the best food they've had in Ecuador"  Juan Jaramillo 7-34 y Borrero  Traditional Ecuadorean food.
Raymipampa RIGHT next to the big cathedral on the square.  Good Ecua food at a reasonable price.  Have almuerzos during the week.
Cuatro Rios Upscale and a little pricey, but good food and good service.


Cuenca - To Do

Ingapirka Ruins $48 pp as a tour or $5 r/t bus ride and $6 admission.  Arrange tour with hotel or from Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca, take the Canar bus at 9am, which (once or twice a day) goes all the way to Ingapirka.  Returns 2pm (1pm on Sat & Sun?).  2 hrs is plenty of time at the ruins.  English guides available at the ruins.
Cuenca City Tour $5 per person in a double-decker red bus.  Lasts about 2 hours and does a good overview of Cuenca in English and Spanish (make sure you ASK before you pay, if they will have English).  Leaves 3 times a day (usually) from central square.  No reservations needed.
Cajas National Park For a small group, take a $12 taxi TO the park, and then hop any Cuenca bound bus for the trip back for about $2 pp.
http://cajaspark.com  
Travel Agencies If you want some help or hand-holding here are some agencies we ran into in Cuenca:
http://terradiversa.com/
http://pazhucatours.com
Spanish Schools We didn't go to any in Cuenca, but here are two we found flyers for at the Eucalyptus Cafe:
Simon Bolivar:  http://www.bolivar2.com
SI Centro: http://www.sicentrospanishschool.com


Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi

Hostal Coco Bongo

Nice hostal in downtown Bahia, just off the beach.  Run by an American and Australian.  Double and dorm rooms.

Taxi Driver
Giovanni

Great guy, not a lot of english, but knows where all the services are to be found in Bahia and Manta.  Can be hired by the trip, the hour, or the day.  Cell 09-425-9224 (Porta) or 09-816-1330 (Movistar)

   

Guayaquil

Manso Boutique Hotel A funky place on the malecon (boardwalk-type place) on the waterfront in downtown Guayaquil.  Very well located.  $35? for double shared bath.  See Ecuador Cruisers Guide (link above)

 Ecuahogar

Walking distance of the bus station, but run down.  $25/night for double with private bath and A/C, breakfast.  Hard to contact (no website).  No english, no internet, and crummy breakfast (bread, coffee).  For my money, next time, would take a better place, similar price and not worry about being close to the bus/airport.

 
Prepaid Cell Phones in Ecuador

Here's what we know about cell phones in Ecuador.  There are two providers (at least here in Bahia)... Porta and Movistar.  We have experience with both.  Porta seems more widely accepted here, so if you're concerned about mobile-to-mobile with others (ie reduced cost, etc), get Porta.  We haven't (yet) seen a big difference in coverage in the areas we've been in.  There is NO Movistar coverage in Isla Isabela in the Galapagos, but similar coverage with both carriers in the other major islands.

We got the Movistar after unsuccessfully trying to get one of our Porta sims set up for tethered internet.  We had to have them 'activate' it, and rather than charging by the Kb, it seemed that they were going to charge us $3 per day for any day we used it.  (and maybe $3 any day we used the phone for calling).  And I never did successfully get connected with it.  Once I got a Movistar sim, connecting with Motorola Phone Tools was simple.  I was charged about $1 for 500K of traffic... this was sending/receiving messages on 2 mail accounts.

1.  U.S. GSM phones from Cingular/ATT, if 'opened' can be used in Ecuador.  Most phones can be opened, but the cost and effort to do so varies.  If you don't already have a GSM phone, you can buy one on eBay, already opened, or 'in country'. 

2.  Once your phone is open, you can buy a prepaid sim card for about $6 (Porta) and $7 (Movistar).

3.  Then you can 'add minutes' from many places.  Note that minutes expire eventually.  When they expire depends on how big an incremement you buy. As we understand, Porta minutes are all good for 30 days.  Movistar minutes, I think, have expiration based on the size of the recharge.  $10 is 30 days.

4.  To call OUT internationally...00 <Country Code> <area code> <number>.  To call USA, for example, would be 00 1 321-536-8751

5.  Mobile to mobile minutes on the same network is always cheaper.  Both companies have promotions and they change often.  I THINK Porta numbers in Ecuador start with 08 and Movistar numbers start with 09, but I'm not positive that holds all the time.

6.  Land phone numbers in Ecuador are now a 7 digit number, prefixed by a 2-digit area code.  If you are in the same area, you don't need the 2 digit area code.  So if you see a 7-digit number on a website, and you are calling from somewhere else, you need to figure out the 2-digit area code.  Quito is 02, Guayaquil is 04.  Bahia and Manta are 05.  If you are trying to call Ecuador from outside the country internationally, take the 9-digit local number, drop the leading zero, and add 593 at the front.

6.  If you do not have a cell phone, you can still make calls.  Look for the sign 'Cabinas Telefonica' on the sidewalk.  These are 'call anywhere' places.

7.  Note that Skype charges 40 cents a minute to call an Ecuador cell phone (from Ecuador, don't know the cost from the U.S.) and 90 cents a minute to call a Panama cell phone from Ecuador.  These must be Ecuador charges, because we've never seen Skype charges so high.

Porta

6.  To get your minutes, dial *102# SEND, this sends a message and in 30 seconds or so, you get a return text message with your remaining balance.  Each time you recharge your minutes, you get some number of free 'saldo' messages.  The balance message also indicates how many more free text messages you have.

7.  To recharge from a card, dial *100*<cardnumber># SEND  It should send back your new balance as a text message.

8.  To get voicemail, dial ??

Movistar

To get your minutes, navigate the menu like this:  Tools / movistar / Servicios / Mi Cuenta / Saldo.  This will send a message, and in 30 seconds or so, you should get a text message back with the remaining balance and the expiration.  I do not know if this costs you anything.  In Panama, one saldo message per day was free.

Voicemail, dial *82 SEND

International text message:  Same as dialing internationally EXCEPT NO '00' in front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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