The Real Deal – Taxi Prices In Quito

Quito is unique among major South American cities in that it has metered taxis. What is not unique is that 4 in 5 drivers refuse to use them, quoting you inflated prices to get from point A to point B. Moreover, most travel guides give lousy advice as to what taxi rides ought cost in Quito.

For example, at least three web-sites state that it costs about $8.00 to get from La Mariscal (“Gringolandia”) to the northern bus terminal, “Terminal Terrestre Carcelen”, where you can catch buses to Otavalo and Imbabura, but this is cr*p! On the meter, from the “Centro Historico” which by the way is further away from Carcelen than Gringolandia, this trip is $5.80. From La Mariscal, it should be no more than $4.00.

So…as a public service, we’ve cooked up a little table that’ll give you the skinny on what it should cost to get around Quito by taxi.

Where to Where… On the Meter… Negotiate for… You got soaked!
Aeropuerto Mariscal Scure to el Centro Historico ~ $4.00 $5.00 >= $7.00
Aeropuerto Mariscal Scure to La Mariscal (i.e., ‘Gringolandia’) ~ $2.50 $3.00 >= $5.00
La Mariscal to el Centro Historico ~ $2.00 $3.00 >= $4.00
Terrestre Carcelen to el Centro Historico $5.80 $6.00 >= $8.00

Keep in mind that taxis in Quito charge by time, not by distance. So a trip from Gringolandia to the old city, is a bit more expensive than the distance would normally indicate, given the horrible traffic. Also, most taxi drivers will quote a couple extra dollars at night. So keep that in mind when you negotiate. In addition, *USE SPANISH* when negotiating with taxi drivers. They’re much less likely to try and soak you if you use a well placed, “…demasiado!” (“too much!”) and a counter offer. And finally, if you have to negotiate the fare…don’t tip the driver! He (she) has already included a percentage for themselves.

The Real Deal – Extranjero Pricing

One thing you learn fairly rapidly after touching down in a South American country is that the concept of “extranjero pricing” (‘foreigner pricing’) is everywhere.

You’re probably already familiar with this from Europe…the few extra euros non-citizens have to spend to get into a famous museum, for example. But here in South America, this is a plague, and I’m not talking about the taxi driver in Lima who doubles the price for the “gueros”. That little issue is easily taken care of with a little Spanish and a well placed, “…muy caro!?”

No…what I’m talking about is the outright soaking that I’ve experienced in both Ecuador and Peru at the hands of the local tourist boards. This is particularly prevalent in the popular tourist destinations like Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). Consider that, to get into the 4 most popular Incan archaeological sites around Cusco, you have to buy a $45.00 pass that, for the Peruvians, costs half as much. The pass does not include Machu Picchu (a separate very expensive ticket that is also double the cost for the foreigners). It does not include the two best museums in Cusco (just a bunch of crummy ones). It does not allow you multiple entry to any siteā€”so if you’re on a tour and get rushed through…say…Sacseyhuaman, you’re out of luck. And, you cannot visit any of these sites/museums individually. Such tickets don’t exist.

Likewise, the airlines: LAN, Aerogal, and Tame all charge ‘extranjero prices’ that can range anywhere from 125% to 300% of the price for the locals. And don’t try to purchase a ‘boleto nacional’ just cause you’re flying intra-Ecuador or intra-Peru. If they catch you, they have the option of simply stranding you with no refund or charging you a penalty equal to 2X the cost of your ticket.

One of the reasons we (especially us Americans) travel to South America is the value, but when everything from food, to flights, to sights are subject to a sliding price scale that is designed to soak the Norte Americanos, the temptation to just stay home is great. If it weren’t for the fact that Ecuador (that also has 2X extranjero pricing) is so inexpensive to start with, I’d have just stayed back in the States. I mean, sure the entrance to that church in Quito is double, but when double is $2, I can handle it.

The Real Deal – Traveler’s Checks in Quito, Ecuador

Despite what the guidebooks say, cashing a traveler’s check in Quito, Ecuador is a royal pain-in-the-ass. Take it from the guy who wasted a day walking all over the ‘Centro Historico’ and La Mariscal (affectionately referred to as ‘Gringolandia’) in an almost futile attempt to find a place to cash his checks. Here’s what I found, from big banks to tiny cambios…fees, lines, and limits.

Banco de Pichincha (Venezuella Street near Plaza Grande, Centro Historico) – Lines from hell; crowded, loud, and confusing but no indication of the “tarife” board that cashing traveler’s checks was even an option.

Banco de Pichincha (Quayaquil Street near Teatro Sucre) – Same as at Plaza Grande only longer lines, didn’t even try.

Banco Bolivariano (Garcia Moreno at Mejia, Centro Historico) – “No. Try Banco de Pichincha.”

Unibanco (Near Plaza Granda on Garcia Moreno, Centro Historico) – Yet again, “No. Try Banco de Pichincha.”

Banco de Pichincha (Avenida Amazonas, La Mariscal) – A nice young man at the front said basically, “no aqui” (‘not here’).

Banco de Quayaquil (Avenida Amazonas and Ventimilla, La Mariscal) – Every damn guidebook says Banco de Quayaquil will cash your checks for a low fee, but don’t believe them. Not only will they not cash them, but the tellers will give you bad directions to the main branch.

Banco de Quayaquil (Cristobal Colon and 6th of December) – The ‘edificio’, the real deal, the main branch; up three flights to the ‘international section’ (you won’t find it without help), and the disdainful woman there tells me, “…we do, but the not right now”. When they do cash traveler’s checks is not clear since the sign says “8:30 – 4:00”, and I’m there at 2:30p.

Banco del Pacifico (Avenida Amazonas near Ventimilla, La Mariscal) – My savior…a 2.5% commission, but a $200.00 limit per transaction (maybe per day). Head upstairs to your right for the international section.