Quito to Riobamba to Cuenca Ecuador

| August 28, 2012 | 15 Replies

From Quito to Riobamba to Cuenca Ecuador


Just a couple travel tips before we head off to Riobamba.


“Taxi”…. easy enough to hail and deal with in the states.

But not so easy in Ecuador.

First of all, there is that language thing. How’s your Spanish?

And did you know that a lot of taxis in Ecuador do not have meters. The taxi driver just knows how much to charge to go from point A to point B. Think it’s to much when you arrive at your destination?  To bad… you don’t know the language.

The funniest thing to see is a cab full of tourists arguing with each other because they think the taxi driver has charged to much. The driver just stands there with a blank look on his face until one of the gringos finally pays the full fair asked for.

Keep your GPS in your pocket. Unless you have local cell service it probably won’t work…

Don’t even try to pronounce a street name in Ecuador. “Trente Marsupial Conquistador Loquacious Avenida Bulevar, por favor.”  Sounds like you are ordering a couple of coffees and a fish sandwich at Starbucks. The driver will certainly giggle as you jump into his cab…. So don’t do that.

Here is how you manage a cab in Ecuador.

If you are staying in a place with a doorman or a desk clerk have them hail or call the cab and have them give the driver the address and negotiate the fare. Do not get into the cab before you know the fare. This is so easy it hurts but a lot of people think they can do it on their own. Don’t do it…

If you are on your own, without a doorman or clerk, write down the address you want to go to on a piece of paper.

Hand the paper to the cab driver before you get in and say just one word. “Aqui” (pronounced Ah Key). This is the word for “here” in Spanish.  Let him look at it and he will look back at you and say “Si” which of course means “yes” and you say the only other word you need to know and that is “Cuanto?” (pronounced Kwan Toe and means “how much”). When he says “tres dolares” and you think it is fair, smile and get into the cab. If you want to negotiate, then say, “no, dos dolares”. I always hold my fingers up while negotiating. Tres dollars, three fingers. Then get in the cab and shut up. Don’t try to have small talk or smile to much, remember, you don’t speak the language….

The goal here is to know what the ride will cost up front. If there is traffic or construction along your route or if the driver is one of the few that will take advantage of a tourist, it won’t matter. He has given you the price before you got into the cab. Do it this way and your ride will be peaceful and easy… Don’t do it this way and the fare will be completely out of your control…..


Now, off to Riobamba….

The cost for a bus ride from city to city is pretty easy to figure. It works out to be about $1 per hour of travel time. The ride from Quito to Riobamba takes about 4 hours so it will cost you $4.

The buses are fairly nice, some have reclining seats, some even show a movie. We saw Rambo on our trip. Blood and guts seem to be the movie choice of Ecuadorians. I got a years worth of dismemberment and gore in just a 4 hour trip. They showed the movie twice.

This is a big bus station and it is about 35 minutes from the historic section of Quito so be patient on the taxi ride over and negotiate a price before you get into the cab. We paid $15 for what I suspect should have been a $10 ride. We forgot my number one taxi rule…

This bus station looks like an airport terminal so just walk in and start looking for a window that has a sign over it with your destination written on it. Keep walking further back into the terminal because there are 3 rows of ticket booths, my guess is that there are 60 ticket booths in all.

Keep hold of your ticket and you receipt. The receipt will have your assigned seats on it. This is not open seating… you will have to sit in the seat that is on your ticket.

Read a book or take a sleeping pill. The scenery was just ok on this first leg of the trip.


Riobamba is a decent size city, about 130,000 people .

This was just an overnighter to break up the 10 hour bus ride so we had no grand expectations.

We were all pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Mansion Santa Isabella.

Once we walked through that front door we were in a different world. The lobby was incredible, the service top notch and very personal.

If you are just staying overnight, the cheapest room will do you just fine. We ordered the suite and it would have been great for a weeks stay but a waste for just one night.



Head for the restaurant as soon as you can because you will want to eat at this place as many times as you can. The food was the best we had so far  and rivaled by only a few places in Cuenca…

If you are a boozer, there is an underground tavern that is also wonderful. You will not be disappointed staying here.


Here is a picture of the lobby. It was very clean and the staff was great.



Here are Paul and Kathy enjoying a drink and food in the basement tavern. A couple of men were drinking next to us from a full bottle of good rum so I assume this is a local hangout for the people in the know. We moved upstairs when they lit up their big fat cigars. Great little bar.



Just one of four fantastic dinner items we ordered. The chicken was so tender and the steak I ordered was seasoned perfectly and cooked to perfection. You must eat at this restaurant when you are in Riobamba. Do not leave the Mansion Santa Isabela out of your travel plans. One of the best in the city.



Our bus to Cuenca awaits as Chad does another one of his random handstands. This was a real nice coach with reclining seats and a good movie system. The scenery was better between Riobamba and Cuenca but the ride is 6 hours long.


Here are a few pictures I snapped at the bus station. The character of so many Ecuadorians can be seen very clearly in their faces. I must admit that these photos were taken without permission and with my telephoto lens.















Looks like I was in a mood to take pictures of women today. Great grandmother with her great grand daughter, mother with two daughters, and mom and hija…. What a nice day.




Get on the bus…. Cuenca here we come.

The scenery between Riobamba and Cuenca is pretty nice. As an added bonus we got a glimpse of this plume of ash and smoke from the Tungurahua Volcano, also know as The Throat of Fire. This volcano has been recently active since 1999 and is ongoing today. There was a major eruption in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011.


Half way mark between Riobamba and Cuenca and the bus pulls over and the driver tells us we have a 45 minute break in this very nice little town. For the life of me I can not remember it’s name. I got out and walked a quarter mile up and down the main street looking at everything and everyone and snapped a few pictures.



We get into Cuenca at about 4 in the afternoon and everyone is tired so it was nap time for everyone… except me. I snuck out of Casa Ordonez and walked down to Park Calderon and the New Cathedral. It felt nice as I sat in the park for 30 minutes before making my way back to the hotel….

That is it for now. My next post will start with our first full day in Cuenca…. Good night.



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Category: Moving to Ecuador, Visiting Ecuador

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  1. Schatzi says:

    Hey George! We thought about taking the bus Quito-Cuenca instead of flying, but the long bus ride just sounded horrifying. Your 2 day trip sounds like a great option. One question though – what about your luggage? I’ve heard some horror stories about folks getting their stuff taken – even out of the cargo hold. Did you leave it on the bus during your brief stopover in The Very Nice Little Town?

    • No problems at all. Very professional and safe. Remember that this bus ride was an experiment for me. I wanted to see some of the countryside. You give up a day to do this. Between the bus ride and the hotel, for just a few more dollars you could fly. Decide what you like. I won’t bus again until I live here. It was ok to do once but it did take up a whole day…

  2. Sandra Carpenter says:

    Thanks, George. I will be following your footsteps in November – need and appreciate all advice for navigating thru Ecuador.

    Have a great day!!!


  3. Tera says:

    Mr. George,

    would you recommend taking a bus from Quito to Riobamba for a single, young woman? I’m a college student and I’m doing my study abroad semester here in Quito. I wanted to visit a friend who lives in Riobamba, but I’m terrified of taking the bus. I’ve never done it before.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Tera, I felt safe 99 percent of the time. Travel during the daytime and you will be fine. There are twice the police out during the day. Blonde, fair skinned women and men seem to get the most stares. If you are thin, blonde, and look like a Barbie doll then just expect to get stared at and maybe even followed. Not much different than what would happen in the states. If your boobs are out for everyone to see or you are dressed like a hootchy mama then expect attention. Dress conservatively, cover up, and you should be fine. There is nothing to be afraid of. I would not suggest that a single woman travel to LAX late at night and I feel the same about Ecuador. Normal precautions and all should be good for anyone…. good luck.

  4. Tera says:

    Sorry, but I have another question. Where exactly is the bus station? I’ve asked my Ecuadorian friends, but none of them can give me a clear answer.

    • Ecuador George says:

      In Quito the bus station is close to the airport but in a few months the Quito airport is moving to a new location. There are two types of bus stations… the main station where local buses run out of and then there is the bus station where all the long distance buses run from. I google everything so just google bus stations in Quito or Riobamba. If you are really uncomfortable, find a good travel agent and they will map everything out for you down to all the addresses and maps for reference. Try to learn a little spanish too.

  5. Allison says:

    Thanks for sharing!! I will also be visiting in Jan 2013 and hope our paths cross.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Allison… Our plans are to return late January 2013 for the trip before the final exodus… We just might cross paths! George

  6. Tiffany says:

    Does the bus terminal have buses going to Riobamba and other cities on a daily basis? Or did you have to call in advance to know the schedule?

    • Ecuador George says:

      If you leaving from Quito there are many buses leaving… At least every other hour, maybe every hour. The buses from Riobamba to Cuenca had fewer choices, maybe only 2 or 3 buses the whole day. Always call ahead to find when the are scheduled. Be there an hour before the scheduled time and you should have no problem. Remember, bus travel is the most popular way of getting from point A to point B in Ecuador. There are lots of buses.

  7. Yusuf says:

    Thinking about taking this route to Lima, this has been very helpful. Thanks

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