Essential Tips for Staying Safe in Quito, Ecuador

Old town © Vibeke Johannessen/ The Viking Abroad
Old town © Vibeke Johannessen/ The Viking Abroad
Photo of Vibeke Johannessen
22 March 2018

Ecuador is a popular destination for travellers and expats. If you are not experienced travelling in Latin America or other third-world countries it can be hard to adjust to the Ecuadorian lifestyle and safety differences. Ecuador is going to be safe providing you take an intelligent approach. Travelling and living in Ecuador require you to think smart about your belongings and places you go and what time. This article will give you essential tips on how to stay safe in Ecuador.

Avoid public transport

Public transport is ridiculously cheap in Quito. It costs only 25 cents to take a bus within the city. However, it gets packed, and by that token makes it easy for pickpockets to rob you without you even noticing. They are very good at it and even locals get robbed. Pickpocketing often occurs at the end of the month, when people are out of money. It is usually more than one person that is a part of it and they often work together to trick and confuse you.

Man in White T Shirt Standing on the Bus © Justin Hamilton | Pexels

It is easy to think that your phone might be safe in the back pocket of your jeans. It’s not, and if you do then you are pretty much asking to get robbed. You might experience getting your bag ripped, which is a way pickpockets try to get to your valuables inside.

The best way to avoid getting robbed is to avoid public transport altogether, but especially at peak hours. Alternatively, you can take an Uber or Cabify, which are the safest taxi options in Quito. If public transport is your only option, make sure to hide your valuables in the inner pockets of your bag or jacket, and don’t ever display your phone or money at all. If you do, thieves will spot you right away and you will become an easy target.

Theft in general

Be careful with speaking on the phone in the street, as thieves can snatch your phone even if you hold it tight. It is better to go into a shop or restaurant if you need to use your phone. The same can be said for showing other expensive possessions like cameras or money. Big shopping centres are quite safe and you don’t have to worry much.

However, don’t leave valuables visible in your car at any time or place. Hide possessions in the boot or in the dashboard compartment. People have also reported getting their car radio and other parts stolen. Be aware of where you park your car, too.

Man in Brown Hoodie Standing in Front of Train Railway | © Clem Onojeghuo| Pexels

Avoid certain places after dark

Be aware of walking around after dark. That doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all the time, but be aware of how to get to places without walking after dark. Old Town can be quite unsafe after dark, same as Av. de Los Shyris. If you get attacked it is often because robbers want something, like money or phone. There have been cases of people being threatened with knives and guns. If that happens just hand over whatever you have and call the police afterwards. Safe places you can walk after dark are La Ronda, República de El Salvador, and Plaza Foch.

Black bus approaching during nighttime | © Burak Kebapci / Pexels

Sexual assault

Women need to be extra careful. Most places in central Quito are safe during daytime, but women should not walk alone at night, especially if alcohol is involved. Don’t ever join strangers to a party, in their car, or to their house.

Women | © Andrea Donato Alemanno / Flickr

Staying safe in traffic

Ecuadorians can be reckless in traffic. Not only in personal cars, but taxi drivers, bus drivers, and yes, the police. Even though there might be a green light for the pedestrians to cross the street, cars won’t necessarily stop. The trick here is to cross whenever there are no cars around. Many drivers don’t care about pedestrians and that can cause accidents. If you are scared about drivers driving too fast, avoid public buses and yellow taxis, as they don’t have seat belts. Unless you are comfortable with driving in crazy traffic you should avoid driving in Ecuador. People take chances, do sudden turns, and don’t follow the rules of the road.

In the car © Igor Kasalovic | Freeimages

Taxi scams

It is common for yellow taxis to skip using the meter while driving tourists around. They are required to use the meter and if they refuse when you ask you should avoid taking that taxi. There have been occasions of sexual assault in yellow taxis. Therefore, it is important to take the official ones with a green sticker on the side and always sit at the back. Never allow any strangers to join your taxi. There is also a red panic button in taxis if you feel unsafe. A safer option is to use Uber and Cabify.

Woman waiting for a taxi with phone in hand | © Jan Vasek | Pexels

Think twice about the Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a spiritual medicine ceremony practised in the Amazon. It is known to open up your senses and understanding of your purpose of life and you often hallucinate. Reactions to ayahuasca vary from one person to the next, and there have been instances of serious illness or even death after the ceremony. It is recommended to be critical if you wish to participate, especially where it occurs and who offers it.

Ayahuasca brewing | © Apollo / Flickr

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