advertisement

Arriving

By Plane -- All flights into Quito land at the Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre (tel. 02/2944-900; www.quiport.com; airport code: UIO). The airport is about 8km (5 miles) from the heart of New Town. Right before you exit the international terminal, you'll find several information desks. I recommend ordering and paying for your taxi here, then taking your receipt to one of the many taxis waiting outside the terminal. Taxis shouldn't cost more than $9 (£6). In fact, most rides to downtown hotels are around $6 (£4). You will find yellow taxis waiting as you exit anywhere in the airport.

By Bus -- The Terminal Terrestre de Cumandá (tel. 02/2571-163), located on the edge of Old Town, is the main bus station in Quito. A long line of taxis is usually waiting at the arrivals area. A taxi to New Town should cost around $6 (£4); to Old Town, the fare should be only $2 to $3 (£1.35-£2). If you don't have much luggage, you can take the Trole (trolley) into the heart of Quito. From the terminal, you have to walk up a serious set of stairs to the Cumandá station. To get to both the Old and New Town, be sure to get on the Trole going toward LA Y (indicated on front of trolley and at station).

Visitor Information

The Corporación Metropolitana de Turismo (Metropolitan Tourism Corporation; tel. 02/2959-505; www.quito.com.ec) runs a few helpful information desks at strategic spots around Quito. You'll find one of their desks at the Mariscal Sucre Airport (tel. 02/2300-163), after you clear immigration and just before you exit Customs. This is a good place to pick up an excellent free map of Quito, as well as a host of promotional materials. Their main office (tel. 02/2570-786) is in Old Town, at the corner of García Moreno and Mejía (in the Palacio Municipal). These folks also have desks at the Museo Nacional del Banco Central and at the Telefériqo.

The nonprofit South American Explorers (tel. 02/2225-228; www.saexplorers.org/quito.htm), Jorge Washington 311, at the corner of Leonidas Plaza, is perhaps the best source for visitor information and a great place to meet fellow travelers. The offices are staffed by native English-speakers who seem to know everything about Ecuador. Membership costs $50 (£33) a year per person ($80/£53 per couple). Members have access to trip reports (reviews of hotels, restaurants, and outfitters throughout Ecuador written by fellow travelers) and a trip counselor. If you aren't a member, the staff can give you basic information that will get you on your way.

Local travel agencies are excellent sources of information. Metropolitan Touring (tel. 02/2988-200; www.metropolitan-touring.com), Safari Ecuador (tel. 02/2552-505; www.safari.com.ec), and Surtrek (tel. 866/978-7398 in the U.S. and Canada, or 02/2231-534 in Ecuador; www.surtrek.com) are some of the best and most helpful.

Orientation

Quito is a long and thin city set in a long and thin valley. It runs 35km (22 miles) from north to south and just 5km (3 miles) from east to west. Most of the city's attractions are located in two areas: Old Town and New Town. Old Town, at the southern end of the city, is where you'll find most of the historic churches, museums, and colonial architecture. New Town, which is sort of the center of the city, has the greatest concentration of restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels.

Warning: All parts of Quito can be dangerous at night. Avoid dark and deserted areas, and take taxis, even when traveling relatively short distances.

Breaking the Code -- Feeling a little bewildered by Quito's street-address system? Well, you should be. While it's actually pretty logical, there are plenty of anomalies and certain addresses that correspond to a previous system. To add to the confusion, Ecuadoreans only occasionally use the calle (street) and avenida (avenue) designation. More often than not, addresses are given with the street or avenue's name, but no indication if it's a street or avenue. Introduced in 1998, the capital's newer street-numbering system is prefixed by one of the following letters: N, indicating that the street is situated north (norte) of Calle Rocafuerte in Old Town; S, meaning south (sur) of Old Town; or E, indicating east (este) and OE, meaning west (oeste), depending on which side of 10 de Agosto the street is located. A hyphenated number follows, and then the name of the nearest cross-street or avenue. The first of these hyphenated numbers is actually the building number, while the second number indicates the number of meters the house or building is from the cross-street. For example, González Suárez N27-142 and 12 de Octubre. The building would be found on González Suárez street, north of Calle Rocafuerte. The building number is "27," and it is roughly 142m (466 ft.) from Avenida 12 de Octubre. This new street-numbering system has principally been adopted in the north of the city, and has proven difficult to implement in the south, owing to the nonperpendicular streets. Addresses in Old Town may have neither a letter indicator nor a hyphenated number, although the nearest cross street will always be given. Both address systems are currently in use. Luckily, just about every taxi driver in Quito can find any address using either the new or old system.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.