12 Sep Top 5 Safety Tips When Visiting Ecuador
Ecuador is a popular destination for travelers and expats. If you are not experienced traveling in Latin America or another third-world country it can be hard to adjust to the Ecuadorian lifestyle and safety differences. Here are my top 5 safety tips when visiting Ecuador.
Be aware of walking around after dark. Some places, like Mindo or Cuenca, are considered quite safe after dark. In another hand, Quito and Guayaquil are not always safe. If you ask locals they will also warn you not to or the exact places you should specifically avoid. That doesn’t mean you have to be inside all the time, but be aware of how to get to places without walking after dark. There are so many options for taxis in Quito and Guayaquil. Uber and Cabify are the safest. But the yellow taxis with a green sticker on the side are also safe and easy to take. If you are a female, I highly recommend traveling with others even though you take a taxi after dark.
Public transportation and theft
Public transportation in Quito and other big cities gets packed! That means it is easy for pick pocketers to steal your belongings. You can ask most people living in Quito if they have gotten something stolen when using public transport, most of them will say yes. It is easy to think that your phone might be safe in your jeans pocket or in the bag. The answer is no, then you are pretty much asking to get robbed.
Pickpocketers in Quito are smart. I once got my phone stolen when I held it in my pocket! They can rip your bags, confuse you or trick you. This doesn’t mean you should not bring your phone and valuables. But be aware where you have it and how you hide it. Don’t ever show it, don’t pick it up at all. They will see that you have it and that makes you an easy target. Have your backpack front of you and hide your valuables in the inner pockets or pack it in something else like a sweater etc. There are also great theft-proof bags on the market like Pacsafe.
Theft in general
People can steal your stuff even while you are talking on the phone on the street. Be careful with speaking on the phone in the street. It is better to go into a shop or restaurant. The same is with showing other expensive stuff like cameras or money. Big shopping centers are quite safe and you don’t have to worry much. Don’t leave valuables visible in your car, anywhere. Hide it in the trunk or on the shelf. People have also reported getting their car radio stolen. Be aware of where you park your car.
Ecuadorians can be reckless in the traffic. Not only in personal cars but taxi drivers, bus drivers and yes, the police. Even though it is a green light for the pedestrians to cross the street, be careful, the drivers are still driving on the green man. The trick here is to cross whenever there are no cars in the street. People don’t care about the pedestrians and that can cause accidents. If you are scared about drivers driving too fast avoid public buses and the yellow taxis, they don’t have a seat belt as well. The safest form of transportation is Uber or Cabify.
It is common by the yellow taxis to skip using the taxi meter while driving tourists or even anyone. They are required to use the taxi meter and if they refuse when you ask you should skip taking that taxi. I personally avoid the yellow taxis. If you take taxis or Uber in Ecuador it is expected that you sit in the back seat instead of next to the driver. Even though you are the only one taking the taxi.
If there are no fixed prices on markets and other things expect to get overcharged when you look like a gringo. The tips here is to bring a local with you as well as using your bargaining skills.
If you get lost or attacked
This is a tricky one. Ecuadorians are willing to help but can be shy if you don’t speak a little Spanish. Instead of randomly asking people for help you can go to the next shop like a pharmacy or etc where they can’t do anything illegal to you like rob you or even worse. If you don’t have a phone available it is more likely a shop nearby will have one. Younger people tend to be more confident speaking English, especially in big cities. If you know you are going to the countryside and far from the bigger cities, you should know a little Spanish to get by or bring a dictionary. Have contact information to some trusted people in Ecuador, not only phone number but also the address.