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Getting There

By Plane -- Icaro (tel. 1800/883-567 toll-free nationwide; www.icaro.aero), Tame (tel. 02/3977-100 in Quito, or 05/2626-833 in Manta; www.tame.com.ec), and Aerogal (tel. 1800/2376-425 toll-free nationwide, or 05/2628-899 in Manta; www.aerogal.com.ec) all have several daily flights into Manta's Aeropuerto Eloy Afaro (tel. 05/2626-936; airport code: MEC). There are somewhat fewer flights on weekends, particularly on Saturdays -- the schedule tends to fluctuate according to demand. The flight duration is 30 minutes, and fares run from $70 to $90 (£47-£60) each way.

The Oro Verde and Howard Johnson Manta hotels both have free shuttles awaiting every flight. There are also taxis on hand when flights land. A taxi ride into town should cost around $5 (£3.35).

By Bus -- Buses leave from Quito's main terminal for Manta roughly every hour between 6:30am and 11:30pm. The two main companies plying this route are Cooperativo Carlos Aray (tel. 02/2283-080 in Quito, or 05/2620-877 in Manta) and Cooperativo Reina del Camino (tel. 02/2572-673 in Quito, or 05/2620-963 in Manta). The ride takes around 8 to 9 hours and the fare runs from $8 to $10 (£5.35-£6.65). The return buses leave on roughly the same schedule. There is also regular bus service between Manta and Ambato, Guayaquil, Puerto López, and Esmeraldas.

The main bus terminal in Manta is just north of the Tarqui bridge, 1 block in from the Malecón, on Avenida 8 and Calle 7, behind the Banco Central building.

By Car -- To reach Manta 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. The quickest and best route is to continue on to Chone, Portoviejo, and finally Montecristi. In Montecristi, you will connect with E9 for the last few kilometers to Manta. The drive takes between 7 and 8 hours.

If you're driving from Guayaquil, take Hwy. E21 north out of town to the intersection with E9 north, near the town of Nobol. From here it's a straight shot on E9 into Manta. The drive takes around 3 1/2 hours.

Getting Around

You can rent a car in Manta at Avis (tel. 05/2626-680; www.avis.com), at the Centro Comercial Cocomanta on the Circunvalación; or at Budget (tel. 05/2629-919; www.budget-ec.com), on the Malecón between calles 15 and 16. Rates run around $45 to $90 (£30-£60) per day, including unlimited mileage and insurance.

Taxis are plentiful in Manta and constantly cruise Avenida Malecón. If you can't flag one down, call Radio Taxi Manta (tel. 05/2625-424) or Seguitaxi (tel. 05/2628-215). A ride around downtown should cost just $1 (65p). A ride from downtown to the Howard Johnson should run around $3 to $5 (£2-£3.35).

Orientation

The city of Manta is basically divided in two by the mellow Río Manta. The eastern half is usually described as Tarqui, as it is fronted by Playa de Tarqui (Tarqui Beach). This half of the city is predominantly residential and industrial. The western half is far more developed and of far more interest to tourists, with most of the city's hotels, restaurants, shops, and businesses. Some folks call this half Murciélago, after the main beach here, Playa Murciélago.

The seafront Avenida Malecón is the defining avenue in Manta. It hugs the coastline and runs roughly east to west, from Playa de Tarqui, over a small bridge to Bahía de Manta (Manta Harbor) and Playa Murciélago. Just beyond the Hotel Oro Verde this avenue jogs inland slightly and becomes Avenida Flavio Reyes, which continues on toward Playa de Barbasquillo and the Howard Johnson hotel. Almost everything of interest to tourists is located either on the Malecón or Avenida Flavio Reyes. The airport is located about 15 minutes east of Playa de Tarqui.

Visitor Information

You'll find a tourist information office (tel. 05/2622-944) in the town hall, or edificio municipal, on Avenida 4 and Calle 8. They usually have an English speaker on hand and can offer good recommendations; they'll also give you a local map. There's another, smaller tourist information office (tel. 05/2624-099) at the bottom of the steps that lead down to the Malecón Esenico. This one is run by the Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro, and is much less organized and useful. Your best bet for local insight and tour information is the tour desk at your hotel, or the local branches of Metropolitan Touring (tel. 05/2620-728; www.metropolitan-touring.com), which has its main offices at Avenida 4, between calles 12 and 13. These folks are the largest tour operator in Ecuador and offer a wide range of tours and activities around Manta and all along the Pacific coast. They also have another office in the small strip mall fronting the Howard Johnson hotel.

Fast Facts -- To contact the local police, dial tel. 05/2920-900. In an emergency, call the Cruz Roja (Red Cross; tel. 05/2624-212), or head to the Hospital de Manta (tel. 05/2625-610), off the Vía Circunvalación a mile or so southwest of the Malecón.

There are loads of banks and ATMs all over Manta. You'll find branches of Banco Pichincha (tel. 05/2626-844), on Avenida 2, between calles 11 and 12; and Banco Bolivariano (tel. 05/2620-504), on Malecón Jaime Chávez Gutiérrez, next to the CAE building.

Most of the hotels in town, and a bunch of storefront Internet cafes, offer Internet access. Rates run around 50¢ to $1.50 (35p-£1) per hour. If your hotel can't do your laundry or you want to save a few bucks, try Lavandería del Mar (tel. 05/2629-690), on Avenida 9 de Octubre.

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.