Guide to Visiting Quito and Ecuador on a Budget

Would you like to travel to South America on a budget? Don't overlook Ecuador.

This guide for visiting Quito and Ecuador on a budget will show the way for an affordable South American adventure. Just four hours by plane from Miami, discounted fares to Quito or Guayaquil are much easier to find than affordable fares to Brazil, Argentina or Peru.

Quito and Ecuador are courting more travelers. A new airport is open in Quito that can accommodate more passengers and could attract more international visitors. You'll pay less here for a nice meal, resort stay and scenic tour than in most parts of the world.

Take a look at some budget travel tips for visiting Quito, along with excursions from the capital, information on food and lodging and even a few travel myths.

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Quito on a Budget

Quito is Ecuador's capital and second-largest city.
Mark D. Kahler

This introductory article is packed with suggestions for a budget stay in the capital of Ecuador. In addition to some information about getting around the city, where to eat and where to stay, you'll find links to other sites within a short distance of the city, and a suggestion for an open market featuring handmade arts and crafts if you can't make it to Otavalo.

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What to do in Quito

Gothic Quito
John and Tina Reid / Getty Images

No one can sum up the most worthwhile attractions of any city in one short list, but Quito does afford visitors a number of places that can be seen for less than $8/person. From the plazas of the old city to majestic overlooks, Quito offers days filled with interesting sights at affordable prices.

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Quito Food

Potato Soup is a favorite dish in Quito.
Mark D. Kahler

Food in Quito and Ecuador is hearty but not particularly famous. Still, there are dishes you definitely should sample while in the country, and the good news is that most are offered at inexpensive prices. One favorite, for example, is a cheese-based potato soup that is both filling and delicious. The key is to order what locals eat and pay local prices. There also are recommendations here for those who might feel the need to splurge once or twice.

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Quito Hotels

Luxury hotel stays in Quito cost a fraction of what is paid in other world capitals.
Mark D. Kahler

Quito investors have built improved accommodations near major tourist sites in the city, but some won't fit your budget. Nonetheless, there is great value in the lodgings of Quito. Room rates are reasonable. If you're willing to venture beyond the standard hotel rooms and visit some renovated private homes, the experience can be memorable as well as economical.

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Hotel Review: Cafe Cultura

Cafe Cultura, Quito, Ecuador
Mark D. Kahler

In a renovated mansion, innkeeper László Károlyi offers an alternative to the boring cookie-cutter hotel room in Quito. Cafe Cultura's name might lead you to believe it is only a restaurant or coffee house. But in truth, visitors from around the world wind up here to enjoy rooms with hand-painted murals and a cozy library complete with fireplace. 

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Equator in Ecuador

Just north of Quito, visitors stand on the equator.
Mark D. Kahler

Quito is just a short distance south of the equator. A day-trip to the "middle of the world" is both inexpensive and fascinating. You'll find out there is some controversy about the spot at which the equator passes through, but no matter. There is plenty to learn and experience at Mitad del Mundo.

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Otavalo on a Budget

One of the world's best-known outdoor markets is in Otavalo, Ecuador.
Mark D. Kahler

About halfway between Quito and the Colombian border along the Pan American Highway, the market city of Otavalo attracts visitors from across South America. Many come here not as tourists, but vendors. They sell hand-made crafts, blankets, leather goods and food. Saturday is the best day to visit Otavalo for shopping, but the city is set amid beautiful scenery and scores of recreational opportunities.

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Cotopaxi on a Budget

Cotopaxi, Ecuadors third-highest peak, at sunrise
Steve Ogle / Getty Images

Cotopaxi is Ecuador's second-highest mountain. It's capped with a glacier and surrounded by a popular national park. This region, known as "Avenue of the Volcanoes" is fun to visit, even if you don't have a car. A refurbished national railroad takes tourists into the Cotopaxi region on a day-trip from Quito for a very reasonable price.

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Ecuadorian Haciendas

Haciendas are popular overnight choices in Ecuador.
Mark D. Kahler

Haciendas are lodgings outside large cities that offer a ranch-like setting and outdoor activities alongside excellent restaurants. Some charge an all-inclusive price that can turn away strict budget travelers, but most offer value worth considering. Two well-known haciendas within 90 minutes of Quito: Hacienda Cusin and Hacienda San Agustin de Callo.

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Galapagos Island Tours

The Galapagos Islands are among Ecuador's most popular destinations for travelers.
Paul Souders/Getty Images

About 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador are the renowned Galapagos Islands. Many visitors to Quito will also make the flight and take a cruise among these islands. The variety of plant and animal life here is difficult -- if not nearly impossible -- to duplicate elsewhere. Some links to tour operators are included, as well as some cautions to put into practice if you decide to make a budget trip to the islands.

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Latin American Travel Myths

Travelers should take steps to ensure security.
John Moore/Getty Images

Ecuador and other Latin American destinations suffer from a fairly standard list of myths and misconceptions that keep visitors away. As with all such myths, some have a basis in truth but are exaggerated statements. 

Crime rates are of concern in much of Latin America, but that certainly isn't a unique problem. It pays to take a few precautions. For example, don't flash money or wear valuable jewelry, and be wary of someone who wants to isolate you or your travel party.