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Home » Is It Safe? A Complete Guide to Quito, Ecuador

Is It Safe? A Complete Guide to Quito, Ecuador

Is Quito Safe
Historic Center, Quito

Ecuador’s charming capital of Quito has the largest historic center in South America and is one of the continent’s most relaxed cities. The street vendors won’t bother you and there aren’t stores blasting music on every block. The historic center is truly beautiful and it has a few magnificent churches. Quito’s location in the valley of the Andes makes for incredible views and there are plenty of rooftop bars to enjoy them from. On a clear day, you can see a snow-capped volcano in the distance and you can also day trip Ecuador’s second tallest mountain. Lots of backpackers say Quito is just another city and to only stay a couple of days, but I absolutely loved it here and felt safe.

Related: 10 Important Things to Know Before Visiting Ecuador

Is Quito Safe?

While marveling at the beautiful architecture of the historic center it’s hard to imagine not feeling safe in Quito. Yet, it’s one of the cities in South America where tourist robberies are not uncommon. During the day, there is not much concern and I never felt unsafe.

The problem is at night the neighborhoods of San Juan, San Blas, and the historic center feel very empty. Uber operates in Quito and it’s the best option for safe transportation at night. Mariscal Sucre is the best neighborhood to stay in if you’re concerned about being safe in Quito.

If you’re traveling by bus between Quito and Latacunga, watch your backpack closely. A common scam is for thieves to act as employees for the bus company and steal tourists’ bags. I had read this before visiting and thought it was dramatized, only to meet a couple who were victims of this exact scam.

Related: A Complete Guide to Visiting Cuenca, Ecuador

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How to Get to the Historic Center

The Quito airport is far from the city and a taxi costs $25-30. The cheaper option is to take a shuttle from the airport to the northern part of the city and then take a taxi to your accommodation.

Quito is geographically very long and narrow and the bus terminals are on either end of the city. On the north side, Terminal Carcelen is about 40 minutes by taxi to the historic center. Terminal Quitumbe is on the south side and it takes about 50-60 minutes to reach the historic center. I’d play it safe and use Uber if you arrive in Quito by bus. Even from the official taxi stand, I ended up in an unauthorized taxi.

Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of both buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!

Related: The Best 1 Month Itinerary for Ecuador

What to Do

Church of the Society of Jesus – The gold interior of this baroque church is absolutely spectacular. No matter how many churches you’ve seen, this one warrants a visit. The entrance is $5 and for an extra $3 you can go up to the roof.

Loma El Panecillo – El Panecillo is the best place to go at night for views of the city. You can climb the Virgen del Panecillo, which is taller than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, for $1. It’s best to take a taxi here for $3 because the neighborhood at the base of the hill isn’t the safest. Make sure to bring a jacket and buy a canelazo (hot alcoholic drink) from one of the vendors. 

Basilica del Voto Nacional – The neo-Gothic church’s interior is nothing special, but the view from the tower makes it well worth a visit. This is one of the best places to take pictures in Quito and you can see El Panecillo in the background. The entrance is $2 for the church and an extra $3 for the tower. I’d budget 60-90 minutes here because the line to climb the tower can be long. 

Basilica del Voto Nacional
Basilica del Voto Nacional

Ride the Teleférico – A 15-minute cable car ride takes you up to 3,950 meters, where you will have sweeping views of Quito and the snow-capped volcanos in the background. There’s a 5-hour hike from the upper teleférico station to a peak of 4,785 meters or you can opt for the short walk to the swing set. Pick a clear day and go early before the clouds and crowds arrive. The cost of a return ticket is $8.50. 

Cotopaxi Day Tour – A 5,800-meter active volcano and its national park is a 1-hour drive from Quito and there are two ways to visit. Organized tours visit Laguna Limpiopung, hike to the Jose Ribas refuge at 4,800 meters, and learn about the park’s ecosystem. This will cost $50-60 per person.

The other option is to head to Terminal Quitumbe and take any bus heading south. Ask the driver to drop you at Cotopaxi, where you can hire a taxi to do the tour for around $50 per taxi.

Related: Hiking to Chimborazo Base Camp: Tallest Mountain in Ecuador

Parque Itchimbia – A park with great views looking out over the city. Many locals bring their dogs here and it’s the perfect place for a morning stroll. 

Free Walking Tour – A great way to learn about the history of Quito and taste local fruit and chocolate. Free Walking Tour Ecuador is a great company!

Visit La Floresta – Quito’s hippest neighborhood is full of street art, cafes, and a few independent theaters. Afterward, head to Tripa Park for street food. 

Taste world-famous chocolate at Republica de Cacao, Pacari, or Yumbo – Ecuador produces 65% of the world’s high-quality cacao and there are chocolate shops throughout Quito. Pacari is the most famous and in 2013 it won the award for the best chocolate in the world. 

Iglesia de San Francisco – The setting of this 17th-century church alongside Plaza de San Francisco is stunning and the entrance is free. I promise this is the last church on the list.

Is Quito Safe
Plaza de San Francisco

Walk around Guápulo – The bohemian neighborhood built into the hillside is a joy to walk through with its winding roads. The main points of interest are the Mirador de Guápulo (start here so your walk is downhill), Guápulo Colonial Church and Convent, and Guápulo Park. 

Capilla del Hombre – The home of Oswaldo Guayasamín, Ecuador’s most famous artist, is now a museum where you can learn about his life and observe his art. The entrance is $10 and includes a guided tour in English.

Palacio de Carondelet – Come to Plaza Grande on Mondays at 11 AM to see the changing of the guards at the presidential palace.   

Take a motorbike Uber – Quito is the first city I’ve seen with a motorbike option on Uber. It’s a cheap and fun way to see the city.

Related: The 10 Best Things to Do in Ecuador

Where to Eat

Mote Colonial – Order a mote fritada and enjoy the wonderful views of the historic center. You won’t be disappointed. 

Mote Colonial
View from Mote Colonial

En-Dulce – This cafe in the historic center has some of the best coffee and cake I’ve ever had. 

Comida Típica David – A delicious lunch spot in the historic center serving traditional cuisine for $5. 

Hasta la Vuelta, Señor – Yes, it’s touristy and pricey for Ecuadorian standards, but the food is very good. Situated in a courtyard alongside Plaza Grande, it’s one of the few sit-down restaurants that stays open past 7 PM in the historic center. 

Mercado Central – The perfect place to familiarize yourself with local cuisine on a budget. The llapingachos on the second floor are delicious!

Related: A Complete Guide to Otavalo, Ecuador

Where to Grab Drinks

Calle La Ronda – Quito’s famous street party takes place Wednesday to Saturday nights in the historic center. 

Plaza Foch – Located in Mariscal Sucre, this is where Quito’s most popular discotecas are.

Vista Hermosa – The name says it all for this rooftop in the historic center with beautiful views. A note for all rooftops in Quito – bundle up, it’s freezing at night.

Tres Pintas – A popular spot for local craft beer. 

The Secret Garden – This hostel’s rooftop bar might just have the best views of the city.

Where to Stay

Minka Hostel – The owner created a website for guests with useful info on what to do in the city, how to get there, and how to stay safe. The staff are knowledgeable about other destinations and can help you plan the rest of your trip in Ecuador. Additionally, the dorms are very spacious. 

Community Hostel – There’s a family vibe at this hostel with tons of organized activities and a terrace. Plus, it’s only a short walk from the historic center.

The Secret Garden Quito – It’s consistently named as one of Ecuador’s best hostels for good reason. The Secret Garden has an amazing rooftop terrace, organized activities to meet other travelers, and superb staff.

Where to Next

Quilotoa Loop (1 hour by bus) – An awesome 3-day hike through the highlands that ends at the Quilotoa Lagoon.

Otavalo (2 hours) – Visit the largest indigenous textile market in South America and enjoy one of the country’s best hikes.

Baños – (3.5 hours) A scenic town with incredible landscapes, a biking adventure, waterfalls, and short hikes.

Galápagos Islands (2-hour flight) – You can visit the premier destination for seeing marine life independently for a lot cheaper than the price of a cruise.

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