Life in Quito Ecuador in Contrast to the States

Centered at the edge of the Andes, at 9,350 feet, Quito is the highest capital city in the world. In 1978, UNESCO declared the city of over two million as one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites. But what is it like to spend time in Quito?

For people who grow up in the United States, setting foot in another country for the first time is often an eye-opener. Let’s admit to the fact that we are spoiled in the United States with modern conveniences that are not always available in other countries, especially in developing ones.

If this is your first time in a developing country, there are a few things to mentally prepare for before you start your travels. I have been in Quito for just over a week now and obviously life is different than in the United States.

Weaving between cars, buses, motorcycles, and taxis makes jaywalking an art form and highly encouraged in Quito. Buses come to a California stop to let people on and off. Off the main streets, the narrow, bumpy roads are clogged with drivers who have little regard for stop signs and pedestrians.

Graffiti and trash are an eye-sore all over Quito. Dogs seem to multiply by the minute and love to chatter all day long. And into la noche. I don’t know why the dogs feel the need to speak their mind in concert at 3 a.m. Despite the trash and animals cruising the neighborhoods, the city does not reek as you would expect.


In Ecuador, U.S. currency is used, making the need to exchange currency obsolete. Ecuadorian coins do exist, but only for one dollar or less. Use those coins before you leave the country to avoid exchanging any money. It is always best to carry small bills and coins because many places will not have change for larger bills. And you don’t want to be waving around your wallet that is filled with twenty dollar bills.

Food and Drink in Quito

Local food is plentiful and not expensive, but anything imported is very expensive or at least comparable to prices in the states. For example, you can get an Ecuadorian meal for less than $5.00, but something more “American” will run you closer to $10. A local beer is only about $1.00, but a six-pack of Budweiser is more than $10.00. A box of “Nature Valley” granola bars is over $5.oo, but a local ice cream bar is about fifty cents.

When you eat from the markets or street vendors, be aware of what you are getting into and be prepared that there is a chance you may get sick. Refrigeration is not the same in developing countries. Depends on how brave you are.

Always drink bottled water. You can buy a large six liter jug for about $1.50 and refill your water bottle.

Transportation in Quito

Public transportation is easy, abundant, and very cheap. You can get on the bus, ride for as long as you need to, and when you jump off (literally), you give the assistant bus driver a quarter. Public solicitation is accepted and a vendor will get on and off the buses to try and sell you anything from chocolate candy to DVD’s.

To travel outside of Quito, there are two bus stations – North and South. This is the cheapest way to get anywhere. The buses are more comfortable than the city buses and you will get an assigned seat.

Taxi are not unreasonable, but a bit more expensive than buses, just like anywhere else. I would recommend saving this for night time excursions or rides to the airport. Taxis tun about $5 to get to most places in Quito.

Warning: Always keep you belongings close to you on the buses, not under the seat or above your head. Pickpocketing is common. Be smart!

Quito is very crowded and noisy!

You will see people everywhere, crammed into the buses that cruise up and down every inch of the city, strolling in the parks and malls, walking up and down the city blocks, shopping in the markets, and standing on corners.

Peace and quiet in Quito is simply rare. Cars honk their horns with fervor and many conversations are at a higher decibel. I already mentioned the incessantly barking by the dogs. For someone who is from a large city like New York, this may seem normal, but ear plugs sure came in handy!

3 Responses to Life in Quito Ecuador in Contrast to the States

  1. Good tips! I learned not to put my stuff under the seat when I was on a train in Peru :) Hard lessons never forgotten!

    Michelle Koehler November 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm Reply
  2. We are planning on visiting the Galapagos closer to November, we heard the deals were better if you show up and book with an agent there…Let me know what you find!

    Hotel Bedford November 9, 2012 at 8:20 am Reply
    • I did not make it to the Galapagos on this trip, but yes wait until you get to the islands to book – will be a lot cheaper!!

      Julie November 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm Reply

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