I recently visited Naples, Florida and was astounded at how safe everything felt. People don’t roll up their car windows. People return lost items. People don’t lock their front doors. What? Safety feels different in every city, and definitely in every country. So, how safe is Quito, Ecuador?
My answer, in short: Quito is as safe a city as any and safety should NOT be a reason to miss out on exploring this incredible, high-altitude capital.
That said, remember that when you travel internationally, you’re stepping into a different context and culture. You should do this with curiosity and excitement, but also with caution. While I don’t encourage people to focus on security issues before a trip, keep it in mind as you learn about your destination. If there are resources online, use them, and if you have a local contact, this person might very well be your best resource!
Is Quito a safe destination for traveling with kids?
Is Quito safe for kids?: Yes, but it can get hectic (even for adults). Plan your days out carefully, as well as the intended modes of transportation. Here are a few specific considerations to keep in mind if you’re traveling with kids:
Pedestrians don’t have right-of-way
Quito traffic does not prioritize the pedestrian and is, generally, chaotic. You’ll notice many pedestrian crossings are faded and, well, basically useless! As you walk around the city, remember to yield to cars. It can be frustrating, especially if you come from a country that respects pedestrian traffic above all. From personal experience, though, and especially if you’re here on your holidays, LET IT GO. Just wait until the road clears, the traffic light changes, and cautiously cross the road.
Where the sidewalk ends
If you’re planning to explore the city on foot, keep in mind that you won’t find sidewalks along every road, and some sidewalks are so narrow (especially in the Old Town), you’ll have to squeeze by others to avoid walking on the street. It’s part of the excitement of international travel 🙂 If you’re with kids, make sure everyone is holding hands!
Easy to get lost
In busier neighborhoods, like the Old Town or the Mariscal area, it can get busy and kids can get lost (adults can too, to be fair). Make sure to keep them close, accompany them to the bathroom, and prepare a game plan in case you do get separated. One approach is to prepare your kids with basic knowledge, such as your hotel’s name and phone number. If your child is too small to remember this, make sure they’re carrying a laminated card with your contact details.
Female solo travel in Quito
As more women embark on solo adventures, questions around safety also increase. Here are a few tips to summarize a blog I wrote about solo female travel in Ecuador:
To avoid getting stranded in questionable locations after dark, make sure to reserve transportation and accommodation in advance, where possible. For instance, flights from the United States often arrive late at night. Make sure you have your hotel info (address and phone numbers) handy to give to the safe taxi upon arrival. As an extra precaution, jot them down on paper in case your phone runs out of battery.
The same applies to traveling within Ecuador. Many buses depart or arrive at their destinations late at night or at dusk. Bus terminals are notoriously dangerous places, especially at these hours, so make sure you know how you’re planning to get to your hostel. For a safer alternative to bus travel, seriously consider traveling with the Wanderbus.
It’s fun to party and meet new people while traveling in Ecuador, especially in places like Quito, Montañita and Baños. It’s especially fun if you love Latin dance, like Bachata, Salsa and Merengue.
However, always err on the side of caution if you’re planning to go out:
- Make sure you’re going with people you know (even if they’re recent acquaintances from your hostel)
- Watch your drink, LIKE A HAWK and don’t entrust anyone with it
- If a club looks dingy, call it a night. In Quito, the Mariscal area has a lot of dingy clubs. A few I would recommend are
- Café Democrático,
- Selena (technically a hostel, has salsa nights),
- Dirty Sánchez,
- La Ideal (closer to La Floresta),
- Pachaqueer (closer to Old Town),
- Casa Útero
If you like Latin dance, a good option is to take group salsa lessons followed by a night out in some of the local salsotecas.
Dealing with men
Ecuador is still a relatively conservative country and many local men are under the impression that women from other countries are more liberal. While romance on the road can be another exhilarating element of solo travel, trust your intuition and read the situation.
As a rule of thumb:
- Don’t react to men if they’re whistling or catcalling. Just keep walking, ignore them completely, and if you feel unsafe head towards an area with more people or into a shop.
- Never let anyone (man or woman) buy you a drink. Receive the drink directly from the bartender and keep a watchful eye on it throughout the evening. Just like in the United States or Europe, the date rape drug exists in Ecuador.
Traveling in groups
This is a good idea for any solo traveler, regardless of sex. If you’re not sure how to go about this, one approach is to hop on the Wanderbus and befriend your fellow travelers. This is especially useful if you are all interested in an activity that requires a minimum number of participants, or if you’re planning to share a taxi.
Tips for a safer travel
- Taxis: As a rule of thumb, don’t take taxis off the street unless they have orange plates (or an orange stripe on the plates) AND a blue sticker on the door, issued by the municipality. This should apply whether you’re traveling alone or with others. Personally, the safest option is to use Cabify or Uber. You’ll need to have the app on your phone, a method of payment set up (Credit Card) and an internet connection.
- Walking around after dark: Once the sun sets around 6:20 pm, Quito becomes a ghost town. Streets that once were bustling become desolate and more dangerous. If you’re planning to dine out, and even if the restaurant is nearby, take a safe taxi. Unless you’re going out to party in an area where there are several bars and nightclubs, don’t wander around at night, especially if you’re alone.
What to keep in mind while traveling around Ecuador?
- Travel insurance: Ecuador now requires that travelers arrive with health insurance. You probably won’t need it, but it’s always a good idea to have health insurance that covers emergencies abroad.
- Filtered water and food choices: Bacterial infections and the stomach bug while traveling wastes precious time during a vacation. Avoid this by always drinking filtered water and being careful about what and where you eat. Even if the food was made properly, your gut bacteria will have to adjust to the new “culture”; try to avoid street food until it does!
The Wanderbus is a safe, and convenient, alternative to bus travel in Ecuador. It might be the solution to all of your safety concerns, especially if you’re traveling alone and with children.