Quito, Ecuador, Cost of Living, Things to Do

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This Quito, Ecuador, Cost of Living, Things to Do, includes:

Quito Top Things to Do
Best Quito Accommodations
Best Quito Restaurants
Best Quito Nightlife
Quito Money Saving Tips
Quito Safety and Health Risks
Quito Livability Factors
Quito Cost of Living
Final Thoughts on Quito

Ecuador: My 64th Country, My 11th Year Traveling!

Hey, this is Dan from Vagabond Buddha.

I am a digital nomad. I live all over the world and make a living on my laptop. I left the USA in 2007. Ecuador is the 64th country I have visited. I first shared my travels in a personal blog, but now I share my adventures on Vagabond Buddha. I wrote this Quito, Ecuador, Cost of Living, Things to Do blog so you could decide if you would like to visit or live here.

I last updated this post on March 18, 2018. This post has Google map links and affiliate links. If you use the affiliate links to buy something, you pay nothing extra, but I make a small commission.

If you would like to learn how to make money online as you travel around the the world, click here and a copy get a free copy of my Ebook.

I am traveling with Qiang Hui of Hoboventures.com. Before Ecuador, we had spent 6 weeks in Colombia visiting Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. We crossed the border from Colombia to Ecuador by land so we could visit the Las Lajas Church Sanctuary. Plus, the flights from Colombia to Ecuador are ridiculously overpriced ($375 USD, one way) so we decided to take the land route. Visit my Otavalo Ecuador blog to learn how to save money going from Colombia to Ecuador. Otavalo was our first stop in Ecuador and we spent almost 3 weeks there. It is so beautiful you might be tempted to spend longer. But we only have 90 days on our Ecuador Visas, and we have bunch of other places we want to see before heading to Peru. So we headed to Quito.

In Otavalo, we caught the bus to Quito from Terminal Terrestre for $2.50 per person. Buses leave for Quito about every 30 minutes so don’t bother trying to buy an advance ticket. Just go to the terminal when you are ready and hop on the next bus. The bus ride lasted about 2.5 hours. Unlike Otavalo, the Uber Taxi application works fine in Quito. From the Quito bus station to our Airbnb condo in La Floresta cost $8 USD using Uber. With Uber, you just enter your location in the application and it sets the price and directs your driver on the best route. This saves time and aggravation, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Just walk to the curb outside the bus station. The Uber application will direct the driver to wherever you are standing.

Quito is the capital of Ecuador. Quito is 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level, and is on the equator. Quito is located on the slopes of the Andes mountains in an active volcano region. Quito has a population of almost 3 million people, the second largest population in Ecuador. I hope this Quito, Ecuador, Cost of Living, Things to Do report, helps you decide what to do when you visit here.

Quito Top Things to Do

I have put these top 10 in order of my favorites. If time is an issue for you, I would visit them in this order. The various GetYourGuide or Viator Tours will offer assorted combinations of these recommendations.

Old Town (Quito): If you have been following me, you know that I love the Spanish colonial city centers with 500 year histories and architecture. The Spanish built beautiful parks in the center of almost every city they inhabited. Quito being the seat of the government for this region of South America during Spanish rule, is an exquisite example of a colonial town center. In fact, Quito was one of the the first UNESCO Heritage Sites because it is so well preserved. Consider taking one of the walking tours to better understand the significance of the old town area of Quito. There is nothing like walking on ground with more than a thousand years of human history and pausing in front of a building to learn who was assassinated there and why. The various GetYourGuide or Viator tours that very in quality and price. Pick one that fits your time and budget constraints. Make sure to read the comments and pick one that is well reviewed. If money is tight, and you want to walk old town alone, then make sure not to miss these favorites. Start at Basilica del Voto Nacional. Make sure to pay the $2 entry fee per person and climb to the top of all three towers. Then walk down Oe4 Venezuela 8 blocks south to Independence Square (Plaza Grande).

Plaza Grande (Independence Square): Pause here and take in the grandeur of old town Quito. This plaza has been the seat of government dating all the way back to Spanish rule. On the north side of the park is the Palacio Arzobispal, the headquarters for Ecuadorian branch of the Roman Catholic Church for 400 years. To your west is Carondelet Palace, where the Spanish crown governed this part of South America. After Ecuador’s independence, this palace has served as the President’s residence. A number of Ecuador’s presidents have been assassinated in this palace. As you face the president’s residence, go around the left side and get a free ticket to tour the inside of the palace. It is beautiful and fascinating even if you don’t understand your Spanish tour guide. Next, across from the ticket booth you will see Museo Metropolitano.

Museo Metropolitano: Has a collection of art from the pre-Spanish period through to modern day. You are allowed to take pictures, just make sure your flash is turned off. Once you have completed your tour of the galleries, make sure to explore the entire building. Walk down every corridor, and walk up and down every staircase. Some of your favorite photos from Quito will be taken on this site. Make sure you walk into the library. Then walk past the library to see the gorgeous spiral staircases and three story courtyards. Go all the way to the rooftop and see the view of the surrounding area. Next, exit the museum, and walk south on Garcia Moreno about 50 meters. Walk into El Sagrario Church for a quick look. Then walk another 100 meters south to the Church of the Jesuits.

Church of the Jesuits: This is the most elegantly gold ornamented churches in Quito, in the baroque style of art and architecture. Jesuit priests first arrived in Quito in 1586, to establish a church, school, and monastery, but the construction of this church did not begin until 1606. It took 150 years to complete the church. If you happen to arrive during service, you can enter and see this magnificent place for free. Otherwise, it will cost you $5 per person to enter. No pictures are allowed inside the church. Next, as you face the Jesuit Church, walk around the left side of the church, one block until you reach Plaza de San Francisco.

Plaza De Francisco Church is free to enter and is almost as beautiful inside as the Church of the Jesuits. Plus, you can take photos so long as you keep your flash turned off. Franciscan missionaries built the church starting in 1550, after Quito was founded by Spanish conquistadors. The church was finished in 1680, but has been dramatically expanded over the years. The church houses over 3500 works of colonial era art. Next, as you face the church, the street on you left is Simon Bolivar. Walk a block to your left on Simon Bolivar and then turn right on Garcia Moreno. Walk one block to the Museo de la Ciudad, on the northwest corner of Garcia Moreno and Vicente Rocafuerte.

Museo de la Ciudad: You could easily spend a few hours here. It has art, cultural, and historical artifacts spanning hundreds of years. From before the Spanish invasion all the way to modern times. One of the most interesting exhibits in the museum is the displays of political activism that have occurred since Spain was ousted from Ecuador. Also, I really enjoyed the photos of the indigenous people taken over the last century. Hopefully, it is starting to get dark and you are hungry. Walk out the front of the museum, and turn left on Garcia Moreno. Then turn left onto Calle La Ronda. Continue for 2 blocks and you will be in the historical walking ‘party area’ of old town.

Calle La Ronda: This walking street lasts for about 4 city blocks. There are restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, nightclubs, street food, and great people watching. It is boring until after dark. Once things start jumping, you can see how the locals party the night away at various live and recorded music venues along the walk. Just listen for your sound and walk into a place that feels like you. When you are done, just grab a taxi at any of the side streets and head home. That completes my walking tour of old town Quito. Again, I am suggesting you book a tour with GetYourGuide or Viator, so my tour is second best. Okay, next, you have to visit the equator.

The Equator (The Middle of the World): When you are in Quito, you have to visit the equator! Just book one of the tours with GetYourGuide or Viator. Make sure to pick one that has some social proof such as likes and comments! The more the better. There are two official locations that say they are ‘at the equator.’ The first equator line was located by some French scientists before the advent of GPS. The real equator was later drawn by the Ecuadorian military after the GPS satellites were launched into outer space. Make sure to book one of the tours that visits both locations. The good news is that both locations are only about 60 meters apart, and most tour companies visit both locations. If you only have time to visit one, I suggest visiting the real equator. The science exhibits are more interesting there. At the real equator, you can watch water drain clockwise a few feet above the equator and counterclockwise a few feet below the equator line. You can also walk on the actual equator and lose your balance more easily. Next, you need to head to La Floresta.

La Floresta: This is a funky, chic, cool area of Quito. You can do this as a day or evening walk. Start at Ochoymedio Ecuador cafe and theatre. Have a nice meal, or coffee or a beer. They also have an art-house style movie theatre downstairs with about 50 seats. Get movie tickets and come back later. Next, cross the street and takes some pictures. There is is an abandoned house across the street from Ochoymedio. All the graffiti in the area makes for some great photos. Next, walk two blocks to La Cleta and check out the bicycle decorations. Next, walk one half block to Quito Publishing House and check out the lobby area on the first floor. Next, walk out of the Quito Publishing House and turn right. Check out all the great graffiti in the next block. Next, walk to La Plates and check out this American style food carts venue with 12 different family owned restaurants all in one food court. Okay, now you need to walk to another funky cool neighborhood, called Guapulo.

Guapulo Colonial: Start by walking to Tandana Restaurant for a cup of tea, beer, or wine. From there you will have a great view of the Guapulo neighborhood (the above picture). Then walk down from Tandana to Guapulo Colonial Church and Convent. You will be walking down steps and steep streets. Along the way, peak your head into some of the restaurants along the way and take a picture, or have another drink. You will see some gorgeous views. Make sure to go inside the Guapulo Church when you reach the bottom. Grab a taxi home when you are done exploring. Next, for an amazing view of the city, check out the Quito Cable Car.

Quito Cable Car (Teleférico de Quito): Take a taxi to the base station for about $4 from most parts of the city. Once there, buy a round trip ticket on the cable car for about $6 USD, per person. It is one of the highest gondolas in the world, rising from 3,100 meters (10,200 ft) at its base in Quito to 3,900 meters (12,900 ft) at the top. The view of Quito is spectacular. Dress appropriately. It can be much colder at the top because of the increase in wind and elevation. Plus, if you enjoy hiking, plan on spending an hour or two at the top hiking the various trails at the top. Next, book a tour to Cotapaxi Volcano.

Cotapaxi Volcano: We booked a full day tour to the Cotapaxi Volacano. It started in the morning and we weren’t back into Quito until 7pm. The tour takes you to the highest parking lot under the volcano, which is at 4600 meters (15,090 feet). Then you hike up to the base camp (and restaurant) which is at 5000 meters (16,404 feet). Depending on which tour you book, you may hike even higher. We hiked to the base of the glacier which was at about 5110 meters (16,765 feet). This will go smoother for you if you don’t try to do this during your first few days in Quito. It takes a few days for your body to adjust to altitude. Also, if you have any health issues, or you are getting on in years, you should speak to your doctor before attempting to hike at these altitudes. Book your tour with GetYourGuide or Viator.

Plaza Foch: If you want to check out a high energy nightlife, or a few square blocks of different restaurant choices, head over to Plaza Foch. This is a higher energy party scene than the above mentioned Calle La Ronda walking street. Once at Plaza Foch, walk 3 to 4 blocks in almost any direction and you will hear a multitude of different kinds of music, both live, and DJ’d. There is also an assortment of different types of food from all over the world and many coffee houses. Finally, if you are in the Quito area for more than 3 or 4 days, you should pop over to Otavalo for at least one day.

Otavalo Ecuador: Here is my blog on Otavalo Ecuador. It includes my top things to do in Otavalo. Ideally you have a couple of days or more to spend in Otavalo. You can grab a bus to Otavalo for about $2.50 USD one way. Saturday is the best day because it has the largest crafts market in South America on Saturday. But you should really see more than just the Saturday market. So if you only have a day for Otavalo, I recommend you book a full day tour that will take you all around the area of Otavalo. Book your Otavalo tour with GetYourGuide (Otavalo) or Viator (Otavalo) tours.

Best Quito Accommodations

I normally try to focus people within a fairly small walkable interesting area. But Quito really has multiple interesting areas to choose from. So I am going to recommend places based upon the type of experience you are looking for. Everyone seems to have a different style and comfort level, so I won’t try to convince you where to stay. Here are four great choices!

The Colonial Experience:

  1. Old Town Colonial Experience: This high-end luxury colonial hotel is just one block off of the Grand Plaza ($290/night, unless on special)
  2. Comfortable and Clean This is still close, just a few blocks from the Grand Plaza, but not quite as over the top luxurious as the previous ($98/night).

The Party Scene:

  1. Living Large Apartment: If you want to be in the party area called Plaza Foch, but want a class act apartment to bring the party home ($57/night).
  2. Party Hostel: When need a place to sleep when the Plaza Foch party ends. Does it ever end? ($24/night)

Funky Cool Neighborhood:

  1. Apartment Where We Stayed: You want to be in the funky-cool-chic area (La Floresta) but you also want an apartment with kitchen, strong wifi, washer and dryer, pots and pans, a guard at the door, groceries stores and restaurants in walking distance. a($27/night–use this code (www.airbnb.com/c/dbell50) for a discount if you are new to Airbnb.

Final Price Check: Once you have selected where you want to stay, then use HotelsCombined to find the agency offering the lowest booking price for that property. Just insert the property name and dates and it will return the name of the agency offering the lowest nightly rate for that property.

Best Quito Restaurants

We actually read restaurant reviews and tried visiting a few. We weren’t really that impressed. So this is just a list of the best meals we had during our 3 week stay in Quito.

La Briciola: This is a traditional Italian Restaurant in La Floresta. We enjoyed a Caprese Salad and a Margarita pizza here.

Nacho Libre: We had some great vegetarian nachos here.

Chifa Fung Zhao: Qiang Hui said this was the best Chinese food she had eaten since leaving Malaysia in October. Plus, both of our meals cost only $7.50 USD.

Locro de Papa: This is an Ecuadorian favorite dish that is also vegetarian. I am vegetarian, so this is what I ordered whenever we were out and about and found ourselves in an traditional Ecuadorian restaurant. I never got a bad bowl of this stuff and nobody ever tried to sneak meat into my bowl. I learned how to cook it at home now too. It is about $3/bowl in restaurants here.

Street Food: I do most of the cooking in our Airbnb kitchens, and I am vegetarian. So usually around 10 PM after a glass or two of wine, Qiang Hui likes to go out on a street food hunt. She usually selects Chorizo sausage or BBQ chicken on a stick. Near La Floresta, that usually means we ended up walking to Parque Navarro for the street food carts.

Best Quito Nightlife

Quito has several spots where adults go to have fun after 10PM. We visited two of them. Plaza Foch is an area where you see mostly 20 to 30 year olds that are looking for digital music venues. There are also some live music venues and a few hip-hop places. Just go down there and walk around until you hear music that makes you want to dance. You really only need to walk about a 3 block radius around Plaza Foch to hear all the options. This seems to be where backpackers are partying. Plaza Fochs is a higher energy party scene than the Calle La Ronda walking street in old town Quito. In Calle La Ronda, you are more likely to hear live music of latin sounds. These seems to cater more to locals and international latin travelers.

Quito Money Saving Tricks

SIM Card: Purchase an Ecuador SIM card for $5 and add 2GB of internet data for $15 USD when you land in Ecuador. Make sure to unlock your phone before leaving home so it will work with a foreign SIM card.

Transportation: I already explained how to get to Quito by bus from Otavalo. Taxis are cheap and honest in Quito, so don’t freak out if Uber isn’t ready. Just flag down a taxi. Also, you can catch a bus from almost any part of Quito to Old Town for 25 cents. If you figure this out, you will not only save money, but you will feel like a travel warrior. We never felt in danger riding on the buses.

Onward Flights: One way tickets can be a problem in South America. Some carriers won’t let you board your flight. So book a ticket on Orbitz before boarding your flight to Ecuador. Orbitz will let you cancel the ticket. Book right before jumping on your flight and cancel when you land. You have to cancel within 24 hours.

Quito Safety and Health Risks

Ecuador is really safe. Check the Center for Disease Control (CDC) web page and make sure you are up to date on all of the recommended vaccinations. The recommended vaccinations vary depending on where in Ecuador you plan to visit. If you are going to an area with yellow fever risk, that shot must be administered 10 days before you fly.

Quito Livability Factors

Quito Old Town is a perfectly walkable. We only jumped in taxis when moving to different areas of town. No matter where you are in the world, don’t walk down empty dark streets at night. Stay out of situations where you are isolated unless you are in a group of people.

The Internet was great until around the evening around 4 or 5 pm. After work and school, when people came home, the Internet was slow. From 4am to 8am, and from 10am to 4pm, the Internet works fine.

Food costs in Quito didn’t seem any cheaper than USA prices.

The weather in Quito is cool, but hardly ever warm or hot. (+12C to +24C/+47F to 74F). Quito is at 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level. That is why it remains so cool even though it is at the Equator. Always wear sunblock and a hat. Being at the equator and so far above seal level will lead to rapid deep sunburns.

Quito Cost of Living

Below is the estimated cost of living one month in Quito as a temporary visitor. Some of the estimates could be reduced as a long term visitor. For example, we saw 1 bedroom furnished apartments for $550.00 per month in La Floresta. Plus, cooking at home could save money.

Monthly Cost of Living, Quito, Ecuador ($USD)

Expense

Cost

Low

Medium

High

Airbnb (1 Bedroom Apt)

$35.00

0

14

30

Moderate Hotel

$50.00

0

12

0

Backpacker Hostel

$24.00

30

3

0

High End Restaurant

$12.00

1

4

8

Neighborhood Restaurant

$6.00

30

44

48

Food Cart

$2.50

30

12

4

Subway/Train/Metro

$0.00

20

26

8

Bus

$0.00

20

10

0

Taxi/Uber

$3.00

6

10

20

Total

Per Month

$1,005.00

$1,534.00

$1,504.00

Total

Per Day

$33.50

$51.13

$50.13

For more information about how the above “Cost of Living Monthly Multiplier” works, please visit the bottom of this page at Vagabond Buddha. It does not include alcohol, excursions, or extras, and it is for one person.

Final Thoughts on Quito

Quito is a city of almost 3 million people. So I thought it would feel dangerous. But I never felt in danger at any point during our visit. The old town area of Quito is really beautiful and you could spend weeks really exploring it. Quito is surrounded by very green extremely tall mountains. It seemed to rain a little more than Otavalo, and never seemed to warm up as much. The combination of low cost of living and numerous unexplored areas of Quito, along with the friendly honest people and numerous green areas for hiking and communing with nature, made feel like I could live here for a few years without any trouble. Quito has the amenities of a large city without all of the negative aspects I have come to associate with larger cities around the world. Ecuador in general is quickly becoming one of my top 5 favorite countries in the world. Now we are off to explore Cuenca Ecuador.

If this Quito, Ecuador, Cost of Living, Things to Do blog, has helped you decide what you would like to do if you visit or live here, please leave a comment below. Also, let me know what else you would like to know.

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