A brief description of travel through Ecuador, from Guayaquil to Quito. Ecuador, while one of South America’s smallest countries, is perhaps one of the largest tourist destinations. This is due, in no small part, to its close proximity with The Galapagos Islands. However, Ecuador has a whole lot more to offer travellers than these islands alone.
Guayaquil is a bustling city in the south of Ecuador. Unfortunately, many travelers find that Guayaquil’s reputation precedes it, as it was once considered one of South America’s most dangerous cities. However, in the last ten years Guayaquil has undergone a huge revamp – with crime down and tourism up, now is the perfect time to visit. Guayaquil offers the usual attractions of a city – shopping, plenty of restaurants – but also blends it with Ecuador’s unique style of life. An example of this is to be found in many of the city’s squares. In these squares, locals and tourists busily flock to the nearby restaurants and shops, and while the tourists may stop in awe, the locals simply carry on as enormous, prehistoric looking Iguanas climb the trees that litter the squares. It is this mixture of the urban and the tropical that really gives Ecuador its charm. However, as with every city there are dangers: be sure to only get in clearly marked cabs, and try not to venture out too often at night. While its reputation is on the mend, Guayaquil is still a city, and in cities, trouble can be found. Also, Guayaquil’s climate is extremely hot, so it would be advisable to ensure that your hostel/hotel comes equipped with a swimming pool.
Playas is a small beach down located about 2 hours away from Guayaquil. While many tourists choose the better known Puerto Lopez, Playas is the local choice as it is simple and cheap to get to (a $2 direct bus). However, while Playas does provide a beach, and many hotels that will provide pools, it is almost a tourist-free town, which usually means that any travelers who venture there will get their fair share of stares from locals (even more so than usual). It also offers very little in terms of restaurants and shops, in-particular if you decide to stay in a slightly more remote part of town. However, there is a dolphin estuary that can be reached via a short bus journey. This also allows you to view the mangrove plantations as well as take a boat ride that always provides tourists with glimpses of the dolphins. Despite this nice touch, Playas can only be recommended for travelers that are desperate for a beach break, and do not have the time to make the longer journey to Puerta Lopez.
To reach Quito from Guayaquil unfortunately involves taking a nine-hour bus journey. While this comparatively is small change when considering other necessary bus journeys through the continent, Ecuador’s questionable bus companies and the nature of the route ensure that the ride is far from pleasant. No small part of this is the altitude. With Guayaquil being almost at sea level, while Quito rests significantly higher – it’s time to break out the local remedies (coca tea/leaves) to combat altitude sickness. After the journey, travelers should be sure to book themselves in to The Secret Garden Hostel, which while pricey (arguably over pricey), still gives travelers the best opportunity to meet other tourists and to socialize. The Secret Garden’s rooftop terrace really helps in providing travelers with a safe and social atmosphere: something that cannot be taken for granted while traveling. Quito itself is a large, mostly pretty town, that is split into two sections. While Old Town is the more attractive, it is New Town that has the more opportunities for shopping, nightlife and bars. However, with each section any tourists must be careful when traveling out at night – travelers are often victims of muggers and pickpockets.