Transportation in Ecuador
There is extensive bus service in the larger cities. Quito has a modern ‘trolebus’ (busses that run on separate tracks throughout the city like trolleys) system that is fast and cheap.
Intercity bus service is available to all major areas in the country, though the quality of what is available varies greatly. As well, bus drivers tend to drive fast – and often recklessly. It is only $10 USD to bus from Quito to Guayaquil, around a 9 hour ride.
Note: For long-distance journeys traveling by air is quicker and affordable (see Airlines & Airports below).
International bus service is available to Colombia (border is at Rumichaca near Tulcan and Ipiales) and to Peru. There are three locations to cross into Peru: Huaquillas (near Machala and most popular) Macara (not recommended due to drug smuggling in the area) and La Balsa (near Zumba).
Taxis are abundant, low-cost and available everywhere. The primary consideration is to use registered taxis. Registered taxis in Ecuador are yellow, with cab number on the windsheild and side doors in an orange placard.
Safety Alert: Tourists in Quito, Guayaquil and Manta have reported being victims of express kidnappings – you are taken to a location, robbed and then released. To be safe, do not hail a taxi on the street but use a radio taxi that is sent to you via a company dispatcher.
An easy way to get a safe, legal cab is to go into a restaurant or hotel and have them call one for you or tell you how to call. The majority of cabs involved in these crimes (violence and sexual assault have accompanied the theft in some cases) are operating illegally.
Major international rental companies Hertz and Avis are located in the cities at airports and other locations.
Prices are similar to those in the U.S. costing approximately $60 USD per day for an economy rental, $100 USD per day for a 4X4 or van. Local companies exist also such as CarMax in Guayaquil .
Your U.S. (or Canadian, Australian, etc.) driver’s license is valid for three months after entering Ecuador. You can then apply for an International Driver´s License online or through an ANETA (Automotive Club of Ecuador).
Airlines & Airports
Domestic airlines in Ecuador include TAME, Icaro Air, SAEREO and AeroGal. AeroGal flies to the Galápagos islands from the mainland. LAN airlines has domestic flights as well as International service. Most airlines have an office or agent in Quito.
Mariscal Sucre Airport is the International Airport in Quito. The José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil is new and located next to the bus terminal and has duty-free shopping. The one-hour flight from Quito to Guayaquil is approximately $70 USD each way.
There are two airports in the Galápagos Islands one on Baltra and the other on San Cristobal. Round-trip airfare from Quito or Guayaquil is around $300 USD per person.
Hot Tip: Often times an in-country flight will be cheaper than a long-distance bus – when bus travel will surpass 24 hours and require an overnight stay in a town. A night in a hotel, meals, taxis to and from the bus station can add-up in costs quickly.
When traveling within Ecuador, no fees apply. For those leaving the country via air – a departure tax of approximately $40 USD will have to be paid. Leaving from Guayaquil is around $15 USD less – $27 USD
No International train service – the national railroad from Quito to Guayaquil (Via Lactacunga and Riobamba) is reportedly being rebuilt but certain sections are open to tourists such as from Alausi to Nariz del Diablo.
Guayaquil´s port is the largest in Ecuador. You can travel to Galápagos Islands from here, but the journey is long and rough, rarely done anymore. Most fly out of Guayquil to the Galápagos; the forty minute flights costs around $300 USD.
Once arriving on the islands, taking a cruise on a yacht or smaller boat throughout the Galápagos Islands is the highlight of travel within Ecuador. Short trips on rivers and within the rainforest are available as well.