Buses in Ecuador

Buses in Ecuador

The cheapest way to travel around South America is by bus, and Ecuador is no exception. This mode of transportation also offers the traveler an alternative way of seeing the country. Each glance out the bus window will usually bring a new delight as you pass through lush valleys, vast deserts, snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, and drive along the Pacific Coast all within a day’s journey.

Unfortunately, theft in buses and bus terminals in Ecuador has become increasingly common, and travelers are encouraged to use extreme caution and keep their belongings on their laps for the duration of the trip and not in the overhead bins or below your seat. Wear backpacks on the front of you while walking through stations or standing on city buses. Consider taking alternative modes of transportation due to security concerns.

One thing to remember is that distances may be short, but the roads are often in poor condition, adding hours to the journey. For the sake of your back and long gringo legs, take one of the many luxury coaches that travel these longer routes. These offer more comfortable seats with leg room and usually come well-equipped with a toilet, television, and air-conditioning.

International Buses

If you are traveling to Peru or Colombia your best bet is to buy a ticket to the border and then buy an onward ticket there. You can take an international bus, but these are significantly more expensive and you still have to switch buses once you arrive at the border, and you will still have to go through Immigration and customs. Beware of scammers and thieves at both Peruvian and Colombia borders.

Inter-provincial Buses

The locals’ preferred way of getting around Ecuador is by bus. The cost of a bus ride is minimal and because the country is so small you can get almost anywhere in under a day.

In most cases, especially for longer trips and on busier weekends, it’s a good idea to buy a ticket at least a few hours in advance so as to be assured a seat. It is best to buy your ticket the day before traveling so that you can choose your seat; seats in the last row are the most cramped and offer a bumpy ride, so if you have motion sickness, you’ll want to sit as close to the front as possible. Also, make sure to arrive a little while before your bus is due to leave; full buses will leave early. Empty buses, on the other hand, will wait around until the bus fills up. For this reason and because schedules change so frequently, departures listed in any timetable should be considered more of an approximation than an exact time.

You should know that a “full” bus in Ecuador includes the aisles. Many buses will pick passengers up along the way and stop to drop them off as well. Also, know that it is better to save that big bottle of water for after you arrive at your destination; onboard bathrooms are a rarity and you never know when or where your next stop is going to be.

Private Bus Service

A new service in 2018 is Wanderbus, which is a hop-on, hop-off bus for travelers that picks you up at your hotel and does circuits to popular destinations around Ecuador like Cotopaxi, Banos, Cuenca, Guayaquil, and Montañita. It is extremely safe, has an English-speaking guide, and is a great way to meet friends traveling around Ecuador.

Ambaturismo is a recommended private shuttle bus service that can be an excellent, cost-effective option that may work out surprisingly affordable if you are traveling with family or a group.

In Quito

In Quito, the bus terminals of Quitumbe (in the South) and Carcelén (in the North) are where many bus companies operate from and have their central offices located at. It is from these two bus terminals that you’ll find buses heading to many different destinations all over the country. Some bus companies, however, have buses that depart from the northern-central part of the city, mainly around the Mariscal Foch area.

In the Countryside

You can arrive to most any small town in Ecuador by bus. In smaller towns, there is often no central terminal, and in the most remote areas, there may not be buses every day. Ask around town for where and when to take buses.

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