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Getting There

By Plane -- Tame (tel. 02/3977-100 central reservation number, or 06/2729-040 in Esmeraldas; www.tame.com.ec) has at least one daily flight between Quito and Esmeraldas's Aeropuerto General Rivadeneira (tel. 06/2714-581; airport code: ESM). The schedule on these flights changes periodically, and departure times vary from throughout the week, so it's always best to check current schedules while booking. Flight time is 30 minutes, with fares running from $45 to $60 (£30-£40) each way.

Taxis meet all incoming flights. A taxi from the airport to Esmeraldas should run you around $10 to $15 (£6.65-£10).

By Bus -- Several bus lines have regular daily service to Esmeraldas from Quito. Buses leave at least every half-hour all day and night. Bus lines running this route include Transportes Esmeraldas (tel. 02/2505-099 in Quito, or 06/2721-381 in Esmeraldas) and Transportes Occidentales (tel. 02/2502-733 in Quito, or 06/2723-772). All of Occidentales and about half of Transportes Esmeraldas buses leave from the main bus terminal in Quito (Terminal Terrestre). The rest of Transportes Esmeraldas buses leave from their own terminal on Calle Santa María 870 and Avenida 9 de Octubre. The ride takes around 6 hours and costs around $6 (£4). The buses in Esmeraldas all stop and leave from a variety of stops located within a 1-block radius of the town's main plaza.

There is also frequent bus service between Esmeraldas and Guayaquil, as well as periodic connections throughout the day between Esmeraldas and other major cities, including Manta, Ambato, and Santo Domingo.

By Car -- To reach Esmeraldas 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 from there follow the well-marked highway (E25) straight into Esmeraldas. The ride should take a little over 5 hours.

If you are coming from Manta or Bahía de Caráquez, I recommend taking the coastal road, which heads first to Jama and then to Pedernales, before continuing up the coast to Muisne, Atacames, and eventually Esmeraldas.

Esmeraldas is also connected by paved road to La Tola, Borbón, and San Lorenzo to the north. This paved road actually also hooks up with another paved road that loops around northern Ecuador, connecting San Lorenzo with Ibarra.

Getting Around

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in and around Esmeraldas. Rides around town are just $1 (65p). A ride out to Las Palmas will cost around $2 (£1.35).

Frequent bus service connects Esmeraldas with Atacames and the beaches southwest down the coast. These buses leave from around the central plaza roughly every 20 minutes between 6am and 10pm. The direct buses to Atacames are the most frequent, although a dozen or more also continue on and stop in Sua, Same, Tonchigue, and Muisne. Some even continue on to Mompiche.

Orientation

The center of Esmeraldas sits on the banks of the Río Esmeraldas, a few miles from the beach. A Catholic church faces the city's main central park, and 1 block east of this is the city's Malecón, which runs along the river. Most of the banks, shops, and services are located within a 2-block radius of this central park. The Las Palmas beach area, 3.2km (2 miles) north of the town center, is reached by heading out Avenida Bolívar.

Fast Facts -- There's a tourism information office (tel. 06/2714-528) on Av. Bolívar 221, between Calle Mejía and Calle Salinas. It is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Banco Pichincha (tel. 06/2728-741) has a branch in downtown Esmeraldas, as well as one out in Las Palmas. Both have 24-hour cash machines.

The Hospital Esmeraldas (tel. 06/2710-012) is about midway between downtown and Las Palmas. The post office is on Avenida Colón, between 10 de Agosto and 9 de Octubre. The main police station is on the corner of Avenida Bolívar and Calle Cañizares. You'll find Internet cafes all over downtown and in Las Palmas.

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.