Destination: Quito - Ecuador
Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 0 Bus/Minivan - 0 Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 4
Where we stayed: Traveler's Inn (formerly Amazonas) - $25US Nice little place with very friendly and helpful staff. Breakfast is included and was excellent!
Days there: 3
Best of: We didn't get robbed
Worst of: We had some sort of sauce "spilt" on us in an attempt to help clean and snatch at the same time. We also wish we had time to actually see the city
We flew from Buenos Aires to Quito via Lima with the sole intention of booking a tour to the Galapagos and to spend a little time in this old colonial city. Our original plan was to go to Guayaquil and do this, but after hearing that most of the travel agencies are in Quito and that Quito was the nicer of the two to visit, we switched our plans.
After being in Chile and Argentina for the past month and a half, Quito reminded us of where we were, Latin America. Traveling in and around Argentina was easy, safe and comfortable; albeit a bit more expensive. Ecuador is still a poor country and with that comes petty crimes. On one of the days of walking from tour company to tour company, we had a mystery sauce squirted on us followed by a "helpful" man who just happened to be walking by at just the right time with a pack of tissues...sure pal. Pissed off at the situation, but without much recourse, we persevered and continued on our path of choosing a tour. At least it washed out!
Aside from the sauce incident, we also were still battling it out with the hostel in Buenos Aires over our laundry. Several phone calls, emails and lots of wasted time later, they finally told us they had someone going to Quito (still can't figure the connection between Quito and Buenos Aires) the following Monday and would deliver the clothes then. We also negotiated some replacement money since we needed the clothes in the Galapagos.
Choosing the right tour for you is a matter of personal choice and the choices in front of you are overwhelming. There are four classes of boats - Tourist, Tourist superior, First Class and Luxury. The differences are in itinerary, length of time, type of boat (size, number of passengers, A/C, type of bed), quality of food and quality of the guide. Each category gets a little better with the more money you are willing to spend. And that's for the boats. You can also choose to go to the islands and do day trips from the three main inhabited islands. Nothing is "cheap" however as the minimum you will pay just to simply get to the islands is around $600 per person; and that's before you even have a place to stay or have seen your first boobie or sea lion!
After settling on a tour, we ended up spending our last day in Quito in the tour office getting the wire transfer figured out (the tours are cheaper if you pay in cash as all the agencies charge between 7-10% for the credit card) and did not have enough time to even go into the old part of town. Oh well, it was not meant to be this time.
On the bright side, we got a pretty good deal on a First Class boat and also managed to organize a couple of days diving tacked on to the end of our time in the Galapagos!
Sorry, no pictures on Quito, but we have a couple from our flight over the Atacama Desert from Buenos Aires to Lima. Here are the salt flats and the lunar type landscape from 10K up...enjoy!