Quito is quite an interesting city. Even though the old town of Quito is UNESCO protected, it is not overcrowded with tourists (no Chinese). You really live alongside the locals here. The official currency is US dollars, this makes the prices very understandable. And even though it is UNESCO and they use US dollars, it still is affordable. You can easily have a meal for 2 dollars a person. Also, hotels in Quito are still very affordable. If you want to sleep cheap, this is possible.
Locals live in daytime! With regard to the old town, make sure you make the most of your daytime in the historical centre / old town as possible. There is no nightlife here and just a couple of restaurants that open in the evening. Night-time is better consumed in La Ronda or around Plaza Foch (Mariscal Sucre area). In this post I tell you all about the different areas of Quito.
In Ecuador the official currency is de US Dollar. In 2000 the government adapted this currency as the official one, after saying goodbye to the Sucre. There are different banks that have ATM’s here. The ATM where we didn’t have to pay extra fines is called Banco Pinchincha. At other ATM’s we had to pay $0,50 or $3 fee. Banco Pinchincha is the way to go (for us at least), but please try for yourself.
I really fell in love with the old town, the historical centre of Quito. Read more about all the area’s of Quito including old town here. Including photo’s and maps! I advise taking a guided tour here to get to know more about the different buildings and the history. I always recommend free tours ✌ Just google for the one that fits your schedule best.
As in every self-respecting big South American city, you will find a traditional Mercado Central / Central Market in the capital of Ecuador. It’s located close to the historical centre at Av. Pinchicha (where also the trolleybus passes). Open from 7am to 5pm, the peak is between 8am and 1pm.
Mercado Central is thé place to score a cheap breakfast (desayuno) and lunch (almuerzo). Next to eating it (all😉) straight away, there are some neat aisles to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. You also will find a lot of high-quality flowers here, to pretty up your Airbnb 😊 Also, make sure to grab a delicious juice, and try the a ceviche: A South American sour fish dish that you will find in other neighbouring countries as well. Ceviche is raw fish, so pick a ceviche stall that is busy and has a high circulation of its product. At this kind of markets, it’s always good to apply the general ‘local food’-rule: find the stalls with the most locals, this food is probability the best.
In need for a scarf or some fine jewellery? Visit the Mercado Artesanal / craft market in Quito. Got to be honest with you, about 50% of here you can better order from Ebay yourself, but hey, it still is a great market! Who doesn’t love a stuffed alpaca! I really liked looking around here. In particular, I loved the jewellery here 💍. Almost everything is in (real) silver combined with different kinds of gemstones (great earrings and pendant sets!). Also, the little silver earrings of hummingbirds or Inca symbols here are really great. Good prices and room for bargaining. Clean and well organised. They also sell great quality regional coffee ☕ and chocolate 🍫.
If you love plants and flowers, this includes cacti 🌵, make way to the Botanical garden – Jardin Botanico de Quito. Located in Parque La Candelaria, you will encounter beautiful orchids and bonsai trees. Some of the bonsai trees are over 40 years old, very special. Please read my blogpost of the botanical garden.
If yo are looking for a big traditional market, head to Otovalo at Saturday. You can go here yourself or go with a tour. Self guides is wáy cheaper, as tours in Quito are quite expensive. The market is every day of the week, but Saturday is peek-day.
You will have a great view over Quito at this high viewpoint! Try to acclimatise to Quito’s height of 2850 first, before heading to this viewpoint. Take an extra sweater or scarf and enjoy the views from the swing! Read all about it in this blog about the telefériQo.
Want to be at the equator? That’s possible! At around 25 kilometres north of Quito is the zero line. Easy to go by bus, or you can take an organised tour (but that will be more expensive).
Although located close to the equator (yes, hence the name of the country), Quito lies 2850 meter above sea-level and thus temperatures are not tropical. Locals live in the daytime, you won’t find many in the streets after 5pm. So, don’t expect late night dinners with the locals. The main meal of the day is the lunch, called ‘Almuerzo’ in Spanish. In the evening they just grab an empanada accompanied with morocho.
Well, ‘just’ grab an empanada is maybe a wrong expression. Empanadas in Quito tend to be a lot bigger than its South American siblings. Some are as big as a pizza calzone and can easily be shared between two people. Most of the time they are a bit more modest: about 20 centimetres and filled with a bit of white cheese. Locals (and you of course) take a typical drink with it, a purple or a white one called morocho. These drinks are both served warm, made of corn, and sweet. One empanada is about $1 (€0,90) and with the drink $1,50 (€1,30).
Instead of a quick empanada in the evening a good alternative is a hotdog at the street! In Spanish referred to as a ‘perro caliente’ (literally hot dog) or ‘choripan’ (combination of the words chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread)). Little street stalls can be found around the bigger roads and intersections. You will pay only 1 dollar or 1,50 including a drink (€0,90 or €1,30). If you want to make conversation with the local people this is also a nice way to meet them. We met a lot of people from Venezuela this way that are hoping to make a better life abroad.
An alternative to the quick evening hotdog is a skewer with meat (mostly a sausage) and a potato at top of the skewer.
Having a traditional lunch in Quito is easy to find and really cheap! You will sit with the locals that are hurrying to get back to work. It’s peek time for restaurants! But don’t worry, there is always a place for you, and the food comes quick. The restaurants have whiteboards outside that say ‘Almuerzo’ or ‘Almuerzo de casa’. These state the price of the lunch and the options that you have. Generally speaking you can choose between two soups and three mains. A drink (mostly a juice) is also included. So yes, you don’t need a big dinner after this! Prices are between $2 to $3 dollar for this set menu (between €1,75 and €2,60). Most tend to come at $2,25 (€2).
Guess it’s pronounced something like japingatjos 😉 A must eat in Ecuador! It’s kind of a potato and cheese patty. Depending on the stall, served with patacones (fried banana), rice, meat, avocado, egg and/or salad.
Drink some morocho with it, a warm rice drink. You will be really full after this 😉
If you are a traveller yourself and you like coffee, you know where I’m coming from. Some countries have horrible coffee! I assure you: Ecuador has good coffee (yay!). If you like it black make sure to add ‘sin leche’ (without milk) and ‘sin azucar’ (without sugar) to your order. Coffee is called café, tinto, americano or cafecito.
A place we loved to have a coffee is El Cafecito. Great place to write a blogpost! 😊 Next to this, a little place we passed by called Bookafé, nothing fancy, just a clean little place with good coffee. Coffees will be about 1 or 1,5 dollars (€0,90 – €1,30). Great coffee at the best location can also be found in the fancy Hotel Plaza Grande, located in thé most beautiful building at the main square of the historic centre. Just stick to coffee ($2,50 = €2,20) and one dessert ($5 = €4,40) and your budget will be fine 😊 All places have good Wi-Fi too! Ethnic coffee and art is a great and relax spot too, next to good coffee they also have delicious pastry 🍰
Almost every local restaurant also has coffee to go, just ask for ‘café para llevar (jé-bar)’, and you will be fine! Will be 1 or 1,5 dollars (€0,90 – €1,30).
Breakfast, or desayuno in Spanish, is served at different restaurants. One I would like to recommend is Café Caribe. They have two locations, we have been here. They have two levels and very good service. There is just a great vibe to this restaurant. Also open at Sunday morning. Come back for some ice-cream! If you respect good coffee, don’t come here for the coffee, it’s a weird kind of instant coffee.
As in every big city, you have to be cautious with regard to your stuff. Don’t take a lot of money with you at the streets. Leave your passport at the hotel. Preferably locked 🔐. Take extra care in public transport and at busy places.
👙 Girls, use your bra as a storage space.
👖 And men, always use your front pockets instead of your back pockets.
Hope that my information helps when you plan you trip to Quito, Ecuador!! Let me know if you need other information or if you have great ideas, happy to help! I really loved exploring Quito♥.