We maintained our original schedule in Ecuador
4 days in Quito
3 days in Mindo
3 days in Baños
3 days in Cuenca
1 day in Loja
Since we opted not to go to Galapagos or to Cotopaxi, 2 weeks was long enough for us in Ecuador. The time in each city was more than enough to see all of our sites and we never felt rushed or that we were staying too long. We could have shortened our travel to Peru by taking the night bus from Loja, you can also avoid the overnight stay in Loja, but we choose not to do a night border crossing and are glad we took the extra day.
The Ecuadorian people are friendly but private and keep to themselves. We visited many places where we were the only foreigner, the locals paid little or no attention to us. We never had any pan handlers or beggars and saw very few homeless in the large cities.
This is a Spanish speaking country; it was rare to find anyone even working in major tourist destinations that could speak English. We managed by using Google Translate and most people were very patient with us and did try to help.
Quito is a large over crowded city with lots of traffic congestion, cars do not stop for pedestrians, walking can be dangerous. Stay near the historic district which is interesting. The City was not overly dirty; we did not see any areas with heaps of trash or even small trash on the streets. The city is a valley and the exhaust smell and pollution in the air can be overpowering as the day wears on.
We traveled exclusively by bus both local and for long distances. The city bus system was easy to understand and we had no problem hopping on a bus in Quito. The long distance buses for the most part were a miserable experience. They constantly stopped from small village to village as they pick up the school kids (good thing) and locals. At every stop at lease 2 or three vendors would come on the bus to try to sell us something; they were not pushy, we only needed to say no once, but after 14 days, we were worn out from the continuous street/bus vendors.
Outside the city you can see women wearing the traditional dress of the Indian culture. In the fields we only saw women tending the terraced fields. The scenery was spectator. Mountains and valleys were very green with many rivers.
We spent below our budget of $100 per day in Ecuador. We took only free walking tours of the cities and cooked several meals in our hostels. See the overall costs below.
Where we stayed in Ecuador:
Quito – Casa Carpedm in Old Town. A hostel with dorm and private rooms. We loved this hostel. The owner was great and helped with all inquiries.
Mindo – La Casa De Cecillia – a retreat type hostel with bungalows. The rooms vary in size and quality and we opted to move to a semi-private bungalow with bath that was perfect for a relaxing stay.
Baños – Hostel Casa Real – the view from the balcony was great but the room was tired, host was very kind but perhaps not the best choice.
Cuenca - Cuenca Room – perfect location and a great host. Rooms were large and inviting. Great breakfast.
What we did right:
We planned ahead and brought US dollars for our stay here; this proved a good move since the Ecuadorian currency is US dollars, and the ATM’s are hard to find. We enjoyed the small town of Mindo, it was a relief from the congestion of Quito and it allowed us to meet many other world travelers in a relaxed atmosphere. Free city walking tours (except tip) are a must for us and we had great ones in Ecuador. Took on the challenge of the city buses, this was a major savings and fun to tackle the system.
What we would have done different:
In Quito, we could have skipped the Middle of the World (Ciudad Mitad del Mundo). The site did not feel authentic and was perhaps geared more towards the locals. The Loja bus station area was not great to stay in, even for the convenience of location for an early morning bus. We did not feel safe at our hostel due to security miscues. We plan on not staying by bus stations again.