The bus companies that can take you to different destinations within Ecuador are:
Quito: Manuel Larrea 1211
Tel: (02) 2 236 940 / (02) 2 572 657
Guayaquil: Luque 1028
Telf: (02) 2 320 925 / (02) 2 297 649
Destinations: Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, Tulcán, Ibarra
Times: 7:00 – 23:40
Departure times: Every hour to each of the destinations
Costs: Guayaquil: $7.00, Cuenca: $12.00, Manta: $8.00, Tulcán: $4.80, Ibarra: $2.50
Quito: Av. Colón 852
Tel: (02) 2 551 839 / (02) 2 570 900
Guayaquil: Naval MZ 8
Tel: (02) 2 284 491 / (02) 2 297 682
Destinations: This bus service covers all of the important cities in the country. The routes go from the province of El Carchi down to Loja, it also covers the coastal region (no trips to the Ecuadorian jungle however).
Times: Every destination has its specific time but in general, departure times go from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Costs: The most expensive ticket is to Loja and costs $15.00, the cheapest is to Ibarra and costs $2.50.
Quito: Santa María 870 and 9 de Octubre
Tel: (02) 2 505 099 / (02) 2 572 996
Tel: (02) 2 297 642
Destinations: Esmeraldas, Atacames, El Coca, Lago Agrio, Manta and Salinas
Times: From 6:00am, buses depart every hour to Esmeraldas. The rest of the destinations depart starting at 8:00 pm.
Costs: Costs range between $7.00 and $9.00
Quito: Juan L. Mera N21-44
Tel: (02) 2 503 842 / (02) 2 572 554
Tel: (04) 2 297 040
Destination: Guayaquil – Quito – Guayaquil and vice versa
Times: Every two hours from 5:30 am – 1:00 am
Approximate time: 8 hours.
Quito: Manuel Coronado and Rafael García
Tel: (02) 2 570 429 / (02) 2 570 042
Tel: (04) 2 297 618
Destinations: Machala, Guayaquil, Guaquillas, Pasaje, Santa Rosa, Esmeraldas (covers the coast of Ecuador)
Costs: All costs range between $6.00 and $8.00
Times: 6:15 – 11:45
Ecuador's national airlines, TAME, Icaro and Aerogal offer daily service to 10 cities in Ecuador. These are also the only airlines that fly to the Galápagos Islands (p.110). Flying within Ecuador is not always cheap considering the short distance from point-to-point, but it can save you hours of travel time. For example, a flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes about 35 minutes and costs around $99 round trip, while the bus takes over 10 hours (each way!) and costs about $24 round trip. A flight from Quito to Lago Agrio, the jump-off point to the Cuyabeno National Reserve in the Amazon, takes 25 minutes and costs $120 round trip as opposed to the 8-10 hour bus ride on shoddy roads that costs $16 round trip. Student and senior discounts may apply for both land and air travel, so be sure to ask. It is easiest to stop at a travel agency to book your flight, but be sure to call the airline to confirm a couple of days before you travel.
You will inevitably find yourself on a bus at some point during your time in Ecuador. It is the most common method of transportation for Ecuadorians as well as the cheapest and often the most convenient. Long-distance buses charge $1 per hour on average, slightly more for the Ejecutivo or First-Class buses. Buses in Quito cost $0.25 and fall under two categories: the regular buses and the trolleys or trams. The Ecovia, the Trole and the Metro Bus System run north and south and then have extension routes that stretch out farther into the valleys and neighborhoods to the north and south. Other buses weave throughout the city and can be confusing for travelers, especially those not fluent in Spanish.
The best way to orient yourself on these buses is by reading the major destinations on the placards on the front window of the bus, and asking the driver and/or driver's assistant if they will be passing by your destination. The buses are numbered, but in no apparent order: it is best to ignore the numbers and focus on the placards. Bus drivers, especially in the sierra, are fearless. If you have a queasy stomach, sit near the front. You may not want to sit at the very front where you can see exactly what the driver is doing. Sometimes it is better not to know! Most long-distance buses are equipped with DVD players and TVs so you can enjoy Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many more action stars dubbed in Spanish as you speed around curvaceous two-lane mountain roads. Ecuadorian bus drivers tend to like action flicks, so don't get your hopes up for anything in the line of sappy dramas or romantic comedies.
The construction of a railway from the Sierra to the coast in 1873 was initiated by President Gabriel García Moreno. The 91 kilometers of rail service to the coast was essential to commerce and trade within the country. Today, travel by train is not the most extensive or efficient method of travel, but it is one of the most exhilarating. One such popular thrill ride is the El Nariz del Diablo (the Devil's Nose) a series of switch back rails that go from downtown Riobamba to Alausi, where the scenery is stunning.
In Quito and Guayaquil, taxis will be an important way for you to get around. They are quite cheap, reliable and safe. There are a few rules and tips you need to familiarize yourself with first, however. In Quito (but not in Guayaquil), taxis are required to have a taximetro, or taxi meter, which measures how much the passenger must pay. Generally, the drivers keep it in the center of the dashboard, below the radio. Currently, the meters start at $.35 and go up from there. During the daytime, the taxis must use it if the passenger asks. Especially in the Mariscal or when dealing with foreigners, some less scrupulous taxis will hide it or claim that it doesn't work. Rule of thumb: once you flag down a cab, ask to see the taximetro before you get in. If the driver starts mumbling something about it being broken, wave him on and get the next cab.
There are some exceptions: taxis at the airport are not required to use the taximeter and negotiate directly with passengers. They'll hose you badly if they can, so if you don’t have much stuff, cross the street and catch a cab there. If you're loaded down with stuff, you'll have to suck it up and pay. Before you get in the cab, however, you should agree on the price for your destination: it will go up if you're sitting in the back seat when you begin to negotiate. From the airport, expect to pay about $5 to the Mariscal, more for Old Town. At night after 9 p.m., Quito cabs are allowed to disconnect their taximetros and wheel and deal with passengers. Expect to pay about a dollar more than you would for the same trip in the daytime. Again, you should negotiate before you get in the cab: never simply get in and ask how much it was once you get to your destination. The buses stop running about 8 p.m. or so, and after that it is safest to travel in taxis, even for very short distances.
In a country full of pickup trucks, hitchhiking is a fairly common way to get around, especially in small towns where there is no established bus system. Some drivers, especially in the larger pickup trucks with seats and wooden walls to block the wind, will charge a small fee. You should always ask about price before hopping in. Although hitchhiking is more common in Ecuador than in many other countries, it is still not guaranteed to be safe. Use common sense, especially if you are a woman or traveling alone.
The general philosophy of drivers in Ecuador is 'I have the right of way'. In practice, whoever is bigger goes first. As a result, you will hear lots of horns blaring, brakes screeching, insults flying and pedestrians running for their lives. That said, there are some advantages to renting a car while you are traveling in Ecuador. There are many spots where buses dare not venture and can only be reached by 4-wheel drive, on bicycle or by foot. In order to legally drive in Ecuador, you need an international driver’s license used in conjunction with a driver’s license from your home country. It’s a good idea to also have healthy insurance coverage. Seven car rental companies operate in Ecuador; all charge between $25-90 a day.