Ecuador was one of the first countries to be declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and the first country in the world to have its own Rights of Nature, which focuses on protecting the ecosystem. The primary language spoken is Spanish and if you’re from the U.S., good news, they use the USD so you don’t have to worry about exchanging currency. The equator also cuts across Ecuador (Spanish word for equator is ecuador) so we were super excited about checking that out and standing on it. In this post, I will go over things to do in Quito and provide tips on housing and safety.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Quito, Ecuador
On the way from New York to Peru, my friend Christine and I had a 24 hour layover in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, so we decided to make the most of it and explore what we could with the time that we had. This is our journey and hopefully this provides you with some ideas for your visit.
On our plane ride, we had the Pope wishing us a good journey lol. We flew with TAME because it was the cheapest option (round trip from JFK to Lima, Peru was about $600 per person), but because of the poor customer service and low comfort level, I would hesitate to recommend it. We flew into Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre (UIO), which is the city’s main airport.
After arriving in our hostel (more details in the Housing section below), we met the kind owner, dropped off our bags, and headed out to explore the nightlife!
Nightlife in Quito
Nightlife in Quito begins at the popular meeting spot, Plaza Foch. Bars, discotecas, and restaurants sprawl out from this central spot. There are spots catering to tourists with English menus, but most of the establishments seemed to be for the locals. We were out on a Friday, so it was lively and bustling, but if you’re going out on a weekday, locals say it is much calmer. Like with any new country, I would be careful about your belongings while traveling, but personally did not think it was that dangerous. Here’s a breakdown of the nightlife:
The drinks in Ecuador were interesting. We got a couple of margaritas and they were super salty to the point where I couldn’t even finish it. It was almost like they got the salt and alcohol ratio mixed up. This was from a touristy bar near the plaza center so it was a bit surprising.
As for the beers, don’t drink straight out of the glass! They reuse the bottles so they are not sanitary. Instead, ask for a glass (if they don’t give you one).
The dancing is so good here. Locals in discotecas can be seen doing the salsa and are more than willing to teach. We stumbled upon a discoteca while walking around, they are pretty common in this area.
The food is so cheap in Quito! A meal of shwarmas and fries are 3USD, a coke is 50 cents. While walking around, you can see shwarmas, Indian food, hamburgers, and even hot dogs! It almost felt like being in the States.
We spent Day 2 exploring more of Quito. With the help of our hostel front desk, we hired a taxi driver for 50USD to take us to the Pululahua Volcano and to check out two equator spots: Le Mitad del Mundo and the Intinan Museum.
The Pululahua Volcano is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world at 34 square kilometers and is one of two volcanic craters that are inhabited. Once you are there, you can hike or you can chill at the viewpoint, which offers a panoramic view of the volcano crater. From there, you can get a closer look at the village and their farmlands.
The volcano is kinda crazy because there is no real rain at this location. Instead, the crops are able to survive because of the fog or “neblina” which rolls in every day. This is probably how Pulululahua got its name, which is Quicha for “Smoke of Water” or “Cloud of Water.”
Le Mitad del Mundo
After visiting the volcano, we headed towards Le Mitad del Mundo. If you’re taking a taxi from the volcano, it costs around 6USD. Overall, I thought it was an okay place. It seemed like it was created to sell tourists on the hype of the Equator, but it was still cool how they had a statue dedicated to the Equator and the Equator line (as seen in the second picture below).
If you’re planning on checking it out, it costs 4USD for a city pass to visit.
At the Intinan Museum, you can see the Equator line, learn more about special phenomenons that happen only when you’re on the equator, and about Ecuadorian customs and archaeological finds.
One of the things we did on the equator was balance an egg on the head of a nail. I’m not sure how legit this is, but apparently it’s something that only happens on the equator. If you can do this successfully, they’ll give you a special certificate.
Also, you get to see different centrifugal forces. For example, north of the equator, water drains counterclockwise but south of the equator, water drains clockwise (this might explain why toilets flush differently in different countries). And if you’re exactly on the equator, the water drains straight.
You also get to see recreations of Ecuadorian burial sites and jungle villages. I would highly recommend checking out this place if you’re in Quito! Also, at only 3USD for admission, it was probably the best 3USD I spent in Ecuador.
The historic downtown is definitely worth checking out. As you can see in the picture below, it’s pretty crowded but makes for a great experience in getting a general feel for the city. Here, you will find plenty of restaurants, shopping, and people watching.
The way they make ice cream here is so cool! They scoop out the ice cream from these tubs and then lay them down on dry ice to keep them nice and icy for their customers.
For housing, we were looking for value as we were trying to keep housing costs low. We found this hostel on Airbnb. It was only $16 per person for a double and shared bathroom. Our room ended up having an extra bed in it, which was cool, and I liked how the location was walking distance from nightlife and restaurants. As you can tell from the picture below, it required going through multiple access points to reach the room, so it felt very safe.
- Toilet paper is usually not provided in the bathrooms. However, you can often find someone outside of the bathroom who is selling toilet paper on the cheap (less than 50 cents). Save money and bring your own! We ended up just bringing some toilet paper from our hostel and carrying it with us.
- The policemen are really friendly and look out for you! We were walking around downtown when this police officer motioned me over. Confused, I asked if everything was okay, and he motioned to my backpack and told me to wear it in front to protect it from pickpocketing. While I never felt unsafe walking around in Quito, it was a nice reminder to be aware of your surroundings.
- After the financial crisis of 1999, Ecuador switched to using the USD for currency. They also use their own coins for small denominations.
- If we had more time, it would have been sick to check out the Teleferico. It is a cable car that climbs up the Cruz Loma and at the top, it offers incredible views of the city. You can also go hiking or biking there.
- Altitude sickness was something we were warned about but we didn’t have that much trouble acclimating. Maybe it’s because we were there for such a short amount of time, but it didn’t really affect us. Nonetheless, if you’re planning on staying there longer, definitely think about bringing some altitude sickness medication like Diamox.
Quito offers some beautiful sites and visiting the equator was definitely cool. A lot of people also visit the Galapagos Islands during their visit to Ecuador so if you have the time, that could also be really fun. I thought that the 24 hours provided a nice glimpse into life in Ecuador. As a tourist, there might be fewer attractions than you’re used to, but it was definitely a great introduction to South America.
To see video footage from our Ecuador/Peru trip, you can go to our channel: (skip ahead to 0:35 for Ecuador) [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm0bIHbbcYg[/embedyt]
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