If you are travelling continentally, bus networks from neighbouring countries run into Ecuador frequently. There are a variety of prices and options, but (especially for female travellers) if you are travelling overnight, fork out the extra bucks for a no-stops agenda. For day travel, the only recommendation is to get there early – seats on the cheaper busses are a luxury and passengers take no prisoners. If you choose this mode of transportation, your bag contents must be robust: it will be lumped, shoved and used as a foot-stool, leg-up or cushion – and crates of chickens, guinea pigs and vegetables will rest on top or around it on the roof. The cheap seats are worth the discomfort in terms of the local colour you’ll be exposed to, and the amount of sexual assistance remedies and potions you will be offered from travelling salesmen. The regional bus network really is the best and cheapest way to travel.
Flights should take you to either Quito or Guayaquil – both are great cities but Guayaquil has a rep for being the most dangerous city in Ecuador. Belief in these kinds of sweeping statements is optional but digi-cams and I-Pods are maybe best left under wraps.
Public transport in Ecuador is the best way to get to know the vibe of the town or city you are in. While rickety, run-down and finger-clenchingly careless on the roads, taxis and busses are safe, cheap and as efficient as it gets. Busses will always have recruiters – men who run about and round up as many passengers as they can for their bus – so unless you really don’t mind, confirm your destination with the driver. Ecuador’s transport system, like so many other countries, is subject to the Big Note Mystery. The bank may give them to you, but no-one else in the country has even seen a ten dollar bill and will scrounge for change for up to twenty minutes. Break them anywhere you can.