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Getting There

By Plane -- There is a small airport in San Vicente, just across the bay from Bahía. There are occasional charter flights into San Vicente, but the nearest commercial airport is Manta, which is connected to Bahía by regular bus traffic.

By Bus -- Cooperativa Reina del Camino (tel. 02/2572-673 in Quito, or 05/2695-818 in Manabí province) has four buses daily between Quito and Bahía. The ride takes between 7 and 9 hours, and costs $7.50 to $9 (£5-£6). Express buses cost a little more, but are a shorter, cozier ride.

There's much more frequent bus service between Guayaquil and Bahía, with buses leaving roughly every 2 hours around the clock. Both Cooperativa Reina del Camino (tel. 04/2140-757 in Guayaquil) and Coactar (tel. 04/2140-078 in Guayaquil, or 05/2690-014 in Bahía) do this route. The 6-hour ride costs $6 to $8 (£4-£5.35). There is also regular bus service connecting Bahía and Portoviejo and Manta.

The new main bus terminal is located about 6km (3 3/4 miles) outside central Bahía. Taxis are always waiting for arriving passengers, and there's regular city bus service to the center of town as well.

By Car -- To reach Bahía by car from Quito, start off heading south on the Pan-American Highway (E35) until the intersection at Aloag. From here, head west on E30 toward Santo Domingo de los Colorados, and then go on to Chone. In Chone, there's a well-marked turnoff for the road to Bahía. The ride should take around 7 to 8 hours. Construction of a new highway, which should be completed by early 2010, should cut the drive time down to around 6 hours.

Getting Around

By Taxi -- Taxis are abundant in Bahía, though largely unnecessary if you are sticking closely to the downtown and Malecón area. There are actually two types of taxis to choose from: traditional car cabs, and what the locals call "eco-taxis," which are bicycle-powered rickshaw-type contraptions, with the driver pedaling behind a small sitting area with two wheels on either side. There's a two-person maximum in the eco-taxis. A normal cab ride anywhere around town will run you $1 to $2 (65p-£1.35). The eco-taxis charge about half as much.

By Boat Taxi & Ferry -- Bahía is connected to the small city of San Vicente, just across the bay, by a steady stream of boat taxis and ferries. The larger ferries, which carry vehicles, leave from a spot on the Malecón just across from a small triangular plaza, a block or so north of the passenger ferry or boat-taxi dock. Car ferries run roughly every half-hour between 6:30am and 9pm daily. The fare is $3 (£2) per car, and the crossing takes 20 to 25 minutes.

The boat taxis are small, faster boats that can carry around 10 passengers. Boat taxis run around the clock and basically leave whenever they are full. However, the frequency and number of ferries is greatly reduced in the wee hours. Rates are 35¢ (20p) per person on the boat taxis, with a slight surcharge after 10pm. If it's really late and there's no other traffic, you can hire a boat to take you across for $10 (£6.65). This crossing takes around 10 minutes.

Note: A bridge, expected to be completed sometime in 2011, will connect Bahía and San Vicente, most likely making the above boat taxis and ferries irrelevant.

Orientation

Bahía is a long, narrow city that follows the inner coast of the bay out to the end of a jutting peninsula. All along the bay shore and out to the peninsula's point is a sidewalk promenade, the Malecón. The peninsula runs roughly north-south, with the point located at the northern end, where there's a small lighthouse. A few small parks, the ferry docks, and the Repsol service station, all located on the Malecón and the 2 blocks inland from here, define the heart of downtown. At its widest, Bahía spans only 5 or 6 blocks. The central north-south avenue, located inland from the Malecón, is Avenida Bolívar, along which you'll find the town's greatest concentration of shops, banks, and other businesses.

Fast Facts -- The post office is on Calle Aguilera, just off the Malecón. The Ministry of Tourism maintains an information desk (tel. 05/2691-124) at Av. Bolívar 700 and Calle Mateus. There are several banks and ATMs in the small downtown area. The biggest and best of the bunch is Banco de Guayaquil (tel. 05/2692-205), at the corner of Avenida Bolívar and Calle Río Frío.

There are Internet cafes all around the center of Bahía. Two of my favorites are Genesis Net (tel. 05/2692-400), on the Malecón across from the boat taxi dock, and Multim@x (tel. 09/9717-596), on Avenida Bolívar, between calles Mateus and Checa. Rates run around 50¢ to $1.50 (35p-£1) per hour.

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.