Ever since we arrived in Colombia we kept hearing bad stories from almost every couple who had visited Quito, from snatching sunglasses off their heads to right out mugging with screwdrivers at the throat. Needless to say we were worried about visiting the capital, so much so that we decided to only stay 2 days.
As most of the stories we heard seemed to be based on incidents happening in the historic centre, we opted to book ourselves into the new town area of Mariscal instead. We left Otavalo in the morning and arrived at the main north terminal 2 hours later at around lunchtime. From here we took a rather expensive taxi for $10 to our hostel, Alcala and checked ourselves in.
The first thing we did was to ask about the safety in the area, if I had been hoping to hear we had chosen well then I was in for a surprise. It turned out that whereas the historic area is notorious for muggings the majority are carried in a “harmless” way, however, we were told that in the new town the crimes tend to be carried out with the use of arms as criminals believe tourists to just be convenient ATMs for them.
We were therefore given the following advise by the hostel;
- do not take anything of value out with you,
- if you see people on the curb who look up to no good then cross the road,
- do not walk around after 6pm if you can, instead take a taxi,
- and if you can don’t carry too much cash in case they decide to frisk you
To say we were a little concerned is an under statement.
With the above advise firmly in our heads we decided to head straight out to the historic centre as it was early afternoon. We decided not to attract any attention to ourselves and as such did not take a camera with us. We spent a good hour walking towards the old town, taking in the sights on the way, and once we had reached more or less the other end we decided to stop for a coffee in a lovely cafe before taking a taxi back.
The afternoon walk went without any problems for us, we didn’t feel unsafe but we had ensured to seriously dress down and stick to main roads. Despite the stories and advise in our heads we managed to walk around the town and see a good part of Quito.
That evening we decided to try our luck and walk a few blocks to the main eating area of Mariscal. We heeded the advise and crossed roads when we saw guys hanging around and made sure to stick to well-lit areas. We managed to go out have a meal and come back safely and this helped us to relax a bit.
The following day we took a taxi to the cable cars (Teleferico) located on the outskirts of the city. The taxi cost us $5 to get there and the entrance to the cable cars was $8.50 each. What makes the cable cars a must is the height which they reach and the views you get once at the top.
Climbing to a total of 4100m you really get the feeling of being on top of the world and from there you have a clear view of the whole city and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes – a truly worthwhile couple of hours!
Make sure that you go for mid to late morning so that the clouds get a chance to clear, because if you go in the afternoon there’s a good chance the clouds will be back.
If you are feeling particularly active you can opt to hike further up and climb the nearby mountain or you can also trek back down, but we felt lazy and took the cable car back down!