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Getting There

By Bus -- Transportes Amazonas (tel. 02/2571-747 in Quito, or 03/2740-242 in Baños) and Expresos Baños (tel. 02/2953-479 in Quito, or 03/2740-225) leave from Quito's main bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre, approximately every 15 to 20 minutes from 4am to midnight, with less frequent service in the interim hours. Return buses follow roughly the same schedule. The trip takes around 4 hours and costs $3.50 (£2.35) each way.

Baños is also connected, with less frequent service, to Tena, Coca, Puyo, and Guayaquil. The main bus terminal in Baños is located on calles Reyes and Espejo, just a short walk from the town's center.

Tip: If you arrive by bus, you will be besieged by touts offering you hotel deals, and telling you that the hotel you wanted to go to is full or closed. They are almost always lying, and are working on a commission basis, so their information is extremely biased.

By Car -- To reach Baños by car, begin by heading south out of Quito on the Pan-American Highway (E35) to the city of Ambato. The highway weaves its way right through the center of Ambato. Near the southern end of Ambato, you'll see the well-marked turnoff for Pelileo and Baños. Follow the signs and Hwy. E50 to Baños. The ride takes around 3 1/2 hours. Along the final stretch between Pelileo and Baños, you'll pass fallen ash, volcanic rocks, and destroyed houses from an eruption in August 2006. Be aware that mudslides (lahars) from heavy rains can occasionally cause the temporary closure of this route.

From Guayaquil, take the Pan-American Highway northeast through Riobamba and Penipe, and cross Río Chambo into Baños. The road between Penipe and Baños is also subject to mudslides from Volcán Tungurahua; it's best get the all-clear before setting off. The Guayaquil-Baños route takes approximately 5 hours.

Orientation

Baños is a compact little town nestled against the flanks of the Volcán Tungurahua. The downtown area is only about 11 by 7 blocks, and the main roads through the city run in an east-west direction. The Río Pastaza runs just outside the downtown area. The center features two small, pretty parks, Parque Palomino Flores (Parque Central) and Parque Sebastián Acosta (Parque de la Basílica); the majority of tourist infrastructure is along the main streets on either side of these two parks. The bus terminal, located near the center of town on calles Reyes and Espejo, is a short walk from most hotels and hostels. The hills of Bellavista are to the south, accessible by following a trail south off Calle Maldonado.

Getting Around

It's unlikely you'll need bus transportation to get around Baños, except perhaps to go to El Salado thermal baths, which are a couple of kilometers outside the town center. The bus to El Salado departs from Calle Rocafuerte, just beside the artisans market. The fare is 15¢ (10p).

Getting around in a taxi is extremely convenient -- many cooperatives offer a set rate to tourist attractions. A trip to the town mirador (lookout point) costs $9 (£6); a taxi trip to and from the volcano mirador costs $15 (£10); a waterfall tour costs approximately $30 (£20) and lasts 2 1/2 to 3 hours. If you can't flag down a taxi, call Cooperativa de Taxi 16 de Diciembre (tel. 03/2740-416).

Visitor Information

Tourist information is easily accessible in Baños. The friendly official tourist office (tel. 03/2740-483) is on calles Halflants and Rocafuert, by the Parque Central; there you can get detailed information, maps, tourist guides, or general help with your trip. The office is open Monday to Friday 8am until 4pm, and is usually staffed by someone who speaks English. A similar office, with similar hours, run by the local tourism chamber (tel. 03/2741-660) is located on the side of the Basilica. Most tour operators are also a good source of information and are willing to help without any commitment on your part. In business over 20 years, Expediciones Amazónicas (tel. 03/2740-506), calles Thomas Halflants and Oriente, is one of the town's most experienced tour operators, specializing in a wide range of extreme sports. Geotours (tel. 03/2741-344; www.geotoursbanios.com), calles Ambato and Thomas Halflants, also comes highly recommended for adventure and extreme sports, especially rafting; they provide bilingual, professionally trained and certified guides. Another leading operator is Rainforestur (tel. 03/2740-743, or 02/2239-822 in Quito; www.rainforestur.com), calles Ambato and Maldonado, known for its excellent jungle and mountain expeditions and trilingual guides.

Fast Facts -- To contact the local police, dial tel. 03/2740-101 (or tel. 101 in an emergency); the police station is located on Calle Oriente 251 and Juan León Mera. For a medical emergency, head to the hospital (tel. 03/2740-367) on Montalvo and Pastaza. A number of pharmacies are located along the main street, Calle Ambato.

Banco Pichincha (tel. 03/2740-961) is on the corner of calles Ambato and Thomas Halflants. Banco del Pacífico (tel. 03/2740-336) is on the corner of Thomas Halflants and Rocafuerte. Both have ATMs accepting international cards and can change traveler's checks.

The post office (tel. 03/2740-901) is located on Calle Ambato by the Parque Central. Internet cafes are plentiful in Baños, with rates starting at 25¢ (17p) for 15 minutes; just head along Ambato or surrounding streets and you'll find a spot. Most have cheap international-call capabilities and are generally open from 8am until 11pm.

Brush Up on Your Spanish

With its host of language schools, Baños is a great place to brush up on your rusty Spanish or to dive in for some intensive, first-time learning. Schools here offer courses for all levels, and you can opt for group or one-on-one classes. Check out Ciudad de Baños Language School (tel. 03/2740-317; www.escueladeidiomas.banios.com) or Mayra's Spanish School (tel. 03/2742-850; www.mayraspanishschool.com). Classes run around $120 (£80) per week, for 4 hours of lessons per day, including a home-stay and three daily meals.

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.