WanderingTrader

Quito Is Safe They Said

Quito Sign

The Quito sign in the city of Quito

Quito is safe they said.

I wasn’t worried if Quito was dangerous.

It was just curiosity.

But you never know these days.

Rest assured everyone told me that Quito was safe.  I always like to learn about a country on a drive from the airport.

This certainly wasn’t the Ecuador that I knew of.

I was very excited as it was the visit to my last country in South America and my last major tourist attraction in the region.

There was a span between 1990 to 2000 that Ecuador went through presidents faster than Justin Bieber appears on the news.

There were a total of 7 presidents in those 10 years as the country was rife with corruption and scandals.  Things eventually got so bad that the country doesn’t even use their own currency any more they use US dollars.

Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito

The Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito

There was a hysterical situation at the airport when picking up our luggage in Quito. An American man (had to be American right?) was trying to exchange dollars at the exchange office. When he asked if he could exchange some US Dollars for local currency the attendant told him that Ecuador uses dollars.  He wasn’t sure what was happening and repeatedly asked louder and louder that he wanted to exchange dollars.

I also found it intriguing that there were no pot holes on the streets but there were still chickens running on the roads and entire families of dogs on roofs.   I’m a laid back man I can roll with that.  While nothing bad happened to me during my time in the city there is something different about Quito.

I can’t put my finger on it exactly but I felt very uneasy in the city.

It didn’t feel dangerous like Venezuela or South Sudan but there was something about the city I couldn’t quite place my finger on.  We decided to stay in the old colonial district to ensure that we were able to see most of the attractions in the city.  The city itself was enjoyable as it is undeniably rich in culture with a mix of modernism in a sprawling city known for it’s history.

Little things such as free public wifi in many parks, plazas, and notable districts illustrate how the city is putting the right foot forward to meet the demands of their international clientele.

I always try to ask the taxi drivers questions as they always the ones that know the city best.  The taxi from the airport assured me that Quito is safe.  The next taxi we took to visit the nightlife district of Mariscales (Plaza Foch) to meet up one of our day traders that is traveling said the same thing.

Don’t worry he said, “Quito is very safe”.

After a fourth taxi ride I noticed something rather odd.  After traveling to many dangerous regions around the world this was the first time I ever saw security cameras in taxi cabs.

Security cameras in taxi cabs…. with an emergency red button to press?

But don’t worry Quito is safe. The bright red button is there just for decoration.  Kind of like the alarms we put on our cars and houses.

What exactly are the security cameras with a tamper proof sealant for? Surely not for the German kid I met who stepped out of his taxi to use the ATM only to have the driver speed away when he realized there was an iPhone in the backseat. After meeting up with our fellow day trader who has lived in Quito for an extended amount of time we were informed that Quito may in fact not be safe.

 Mariscales Plaza Foch in Quito

Hanging out with the crew in Mariscales Plaza Foch in Quito

He admitted that many friends had been mugged, robbed, or in one way or another been taken advantage of and lost belongings while in Quito.  This includes military style head locks in public places for petty thefts.

One may feel safe as we see police officers on every corner or even “tourist police” tents.  But after the sun goes down that means nothing as petty thefts are very normal.

Many travelers who enjoy the nightlife in Quito have taken up the habit of being prepared when going back home.

They place important items such as their cell phone and identification in their socks.

While walking home from bars they just leave a bit of cash in their pockets to please anyone that confronts them.  But don’t worry, it’s safe.

“Senor, do I look and sound like a gringo to you?”

Taxis in Quito were a pain an absolute pain in the ass and while I appreciate a good hustle now and then I quickly became frustrated with the drivers in the city.  It was not uncommon to enter and exit three taxis in two blocks as drivers would refuse to turn on the meter instead of trying to quote you a flat rate, which was often double the standard fare as taxis are extremely cheap here.

But don’t worry only about half of the taxis in Quito are actually fake.

There was one point in time where we were aggressively flagged down by a yellow vehicle resembling a taxi.  It has the same color yellow that we are accustomed to seeing.  This taxi however was aggressively honking his horn at us to enter the taxi the second we exited the mall. I would have to disclose that it is about a 5 minute walk.

Striking a Pose in Quito

Striking a Pose at the Presidential Palace in Quito

We ended up taking a taxi that actually had license plates and of course two specially designed security cameras watching our every move.  Later we realized that this was in fact a fake taxi that we wanted nothing to be a part of.

I don’t want to paint a bad picture of Quito as I wasn’t there long enough to really explore the city.  There is something about Quito however that doesn’t feel quite right. The city is beautiful with an incredible about of history, gastronomy, and things to see.

But if we think that Quito is safe the quite opposite may be sure. It could be said that Quito is a bit dangerous and we should keep an extra eye out when visiting the city. Although I enjoyed my stay in the city I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon. Afterall, I supposedly live in one of the dangerous cities in the world in Medellin, Colombia.

Medellin of course doesn’t have security cameras in taxis.

Nor we have to put phones in our socks to hide them from robbers.

53 Comments

  1. Good post. I am very surprised with this. I was there 3-4 years ago and lived in the poorer part for 2 months and we never had any hassle. Even though we lived in a very poor part of Quito (and in general it is quite poor) we never got hassle off anybody. Maybe it was because we used the local buses rather than taxis. Maybe the taxis are what the tourist use so gangsters are attracted to them?

  2. Interesting post as I’m actually thinking about going to Ecuador at the end of May. I was leaning more toward Cuenca or Montanita anyways but I’d have to fly in to Quito or Guayaquil. I wonder if Guayaquil is safer? There are so many “unsafe” cities that I want to visit, but once I’m there the whole hiding your camera and phone, not speaking english and being super vigilant thing gets tiresome. :/

    1. You do not want to go to Guayaquil Anna. It is one of the most dangerous cities in South America would not recommend it. Cuenca is where all of the retirees go so you may like Cuenca as well as Montanita.

  3. While I understand your point of view and respect your opinion, you provide no basis for your accusation that “Quito is not safe.”

    In every foreign city, caution should be taken to avoid robbery, mugging, or worse. Let’s be honest, if you are a foreigner (gringo)…you will attract more attention. You should keep a close eye on your personal belongings and should not carry more cash than you need. From the five months that I spent in Quito last year, I believe the government and citizens are proud of their city and want to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience while you are there. The security cameras, emergency buttons, and police at the corner tents are to provide foreigners with an extra sense of security. It is rare that any are actually utilized.

    It is unfortunate that you did not feel safe while you were in Quito, but do not let it discourage you from returning. As a fellow gringo that speaks fluent Spanish, I fell in love with the city, people, culture, language, and food. It is truly a beautiful city with a rich heritage and culture. Until you actually have a personal story of an “unsafe” experience, and not hearsay, your article has no validity. But thanks for your opinion.

    1. Besides the fact that every person that I spoke to that has been living there has specifically said it is not safe? Or maybe it was the fact that Ecuadorians themselves were getting robbed and mugged while I was there. Yeah… of course Quito is safe. That is what they want everyone to believe. Far from it. I won’t be going back to Quito any time soon there are much better cities to be in like Medellin.

  4. Usually when people talk about safety, they are talking about personal safety, not about having your belonging’s stolen by a pick-pocket.

    I realise that often muggings can involve weapons and threats, but you are saying “oh! Those pick pockets! Oh yeah it’s safe” sarcasticly… it doesn’t sound right at all. Perhaps you should have spoken more about the actual dangers and what makes it dangerous than vague statements about non-violent crimes.

    1. Quito isn’t safe period Stacey. I don’t have to mention every single situation and every single horror story I’ve heard while I was there. It just isn’t safe period and people need to be carefule there.

  5. Just came back from Quito. Your article is misleading. I loved it there and did not feel unsafe. Some cities I go to people stare at me with malicious intent. Quito…not at all. Every place has its bad folks roaming around ready for some mayhem. One must always be aware of their surroundings. But to say Quito is unsafe is unfair and misleading to people wanting to visit a great place. If you want to aimlessly wander around like a dumb tourist like any place is a freaking utopia, then that’s going to draw the wrong attention obviously. Try visiting Miami at night even in the best neighborhoods dude. Pretty scary s***.

      1. I can answer that for me. We stayed at a hotel on Santa Domingo Plaza in old town. We spent 2 1/2 days there at the beginning of our trip and 1 long day at the end of our trip.

        Still have my $500 camera, which I kept in my pocket and used extensively (which you will because Quito is so amazingly beautiful).

        Not sure what people get out of writing misleading stuff like this original article, but I can tell you that it is completely not accurate in my personal experience. My girlfriend and I were quite taken by Quito and Ecuador in general. Be smart and you will be very glad you got to see Quito, as we are.

        1. Thanks for the note Jim… glad that you had a great time. I would not agree that this is misleading… I would be happy to personally refer to you 5 of my friends that live in Quito and have lived there full time for their 20+ years of life. I can also refer you to a good friend that is a foreigner that would have plenty of stories to share with you.

          It frankly isn’t a safe city. The corrupt govt isn’t any better either.

    1. Who told you Miami is safe?…that’s just an other spanish city in the wrong side of the map.How is Quito safety compared to Oslo,Vienna or Otawa for example?That makes more sense to me as a reference

      1. Miami is much safer than Quito….. Many times the crime in a city has to do with the culture not the actual size. So even though Quito may be more similar in size to the cities you mentioned it would not be an accurate comparison since that is Western European and Canadian culture. Miami has closer demographics to Quito then the cities you mentioned.

  6. You were in a taxi in Japan that didn’t have a camera. Where you looking for a camera the size of a shoe box. They all have cameras. Plus so do cabs in many American cities and in many places in Europe. I’ve been in limos that have cameras. So to say it has a camera and implying it is unsafe is a stretch, And if you have one specific incident, maybe you should mention it. Besides you’re from Medellin and you think Quito is unsafe??? Sounds more like jealousy than an actual report. Maybe that’s why you took a pot shot at Americans too. People, don’t be afraid to go to Quito. Medellin Columbia makes Quito seem like Disneyland. This guy’s a hater.

  7. Great review and video. The camera thing is interesting. I too had my first experience of a camera in a taxi and it was here in the US. Was taking a Prius taxi from LAX and saw a sticker that the taxi cab was being monitored by camera. To think of all places….USA 🙁

  8. Are you sure that sign is real? Because I’ve been to Quito multiple times and I have never seen those bright red “Quito” letters. If it’s real, where is it because I want to go see that next time I go to Ecuador.

      1. To be specific, the red sign in on the north side of Parque El Ejido, which is the side closest to Mariscal Sucre. Parque Alemeda and Parque El Ejido are between the Old Town and Mariscal Sucre.

        I would know. I also took a photograph of that sign on Saturday during an all day adventure walking around Old Town and Mariscal Sucre, and I still have my camera, wallet and everything else.

  9. I find this personal article rather misleading. If one start to check some statistics Medellin comes on top of most violent cities in the world. While Quito has one digit in murder rates at 6%, Medellin has 19% according to World Health Organization.
    Quito’s 911 system is a national security integrated system that now has expanded to taxi vehicles. Just like in London Underground security CCTV cameras check for possible undesirable events , so the 911 security system allows to have real time alert if the worst happens.
    I have travelled throughout south america and in my personal experience Quito has been one of the safest and most charismatic city of all.

    1. And yet most people that make those lists don’t include more dangerous cities like Quito, cities in the Middle East, and Africa. Just because they have a supposed “excellent 911 system” means nothing. This information comes directly from my experience with locals, not tourists. Sorry but Quito is more dangerous than Medellin. Especially for tourists. Quito is way more dangerous than places like Lima, Santiago, and even Medellin.

  10. Lol. I am laughing reading these comments.
    You are completely right. Every single person I have spoken to so far in Quito has been robbed and often with a knife or gun, including everyone that lives here.
    It’s a beautiful place and that’s not put me off because if you give them what they want they seem to run off but very naive are people who say this doesn’t happen

  11. Wow, interesting! I have been thinking of teaching in Ecuador for an extended period of time, about 11 months and came across this post. I previously lived in Barcelona for a year, where pickpockets are extremely common. Would this be considered an unsafe city to you? I am from and currently live in Atlanta and have relatives who I visit in New Orleans and Chicago. Many of these cities are considered to be unsafe in terms of violent crimes. If in Ecuador “unsafe” stems from only petty theft, scam artists, needing to be aware of your surroundings, etc then I would have to say I deal with the threat of this daily while in downtown and South Atlanta. Based on other research I’ve found on Quito, tourists/expats should be just fine

      1. Hey Marcelo . I am a bit worried about coming to Quito from Canada it will be a top over as we are going to loja. Should I avoid Quito and go to Cali then to loja . Ron

  12. Hi I am thinking of travelling to loja equador. By doing this we will have to stay in Quito . It will be me and my son , I am a little freaked out about the reviews . Is Quito really that bad and does anyone know if loja is a good and safe place to visit . Ron

  13. I don’t find this article to be accurate based on my recent experience. I’m afraid the author’s comments will mislead people and disuade some of you from experiencing a city that my girlfriend and I found to be wonderful.

    We just flew back from Quito on Sunday, after three weeks in Ecuador and several days in Quito and had a total blast there.

    Last thing we did on Saturday before our 1:44am departing flight was hang out at one of the local micorbreweries. Thenwe caught a registered taxi they called for us back to the hotel; and then took the taxi they hotel arranged to the airport.

    See the common thread? We made intelligent decisions and stayed safe and had a blast. If it had been me solo, I might have walked confidently and deliberately back to the hotel, but elected to be extra conservative and not do so with my girlfriend.

    Never once did we feel uncomfortable in Quito or anywhere in Ecuador. It was a wonderful place. Granted, we made good decisions such as only using registered taxis and not walking in Quito after dark. There are police all over the place during the day in Old Town and New Town Quito. I’m also a highly experienced traveler, and I felt very comfortable and safe in Quito.

    On Saturday, we walked during the day from Old Town, through the new Town and all the way up to the Quito Hotel. At one point I realized I’d gotten us on a deserted street and begin to wonder if I’d made a major blunder doing that (not that anything was threatening). We come around a corner and there was a police officer right there.

    By contrast, we were advised that it was totally safe to walk even at night in Riobamba and Cuenca, and we did without even a hint of a problem.

    This article that in my opinion exaggerates possible safety issues in Quito may make a good story, but it’s not accurate in my very recent experience.

    Quito has arguably passed Buenos Aires as my personal favorite South American city. We loved it there.

  14. I was doing some research on Quito as I am considering buying a place and moving, when I came across this. You all seem to have experience with travel. I am looking to move to a country/city that is affordable, beautiful and friendly. Somewhere that I can use my inheritance to buy a place and retire. Any suggestions?

  15. Hi,

    I have spent more than 15 days in Quito and Equidor and have found it very safe. Make sure you are not taking fake taxis and most safe taxis have a green sticker signifying they are safe. So I would highly recommend using these taxis.

    Please are every friendly and has been an absolute pleasure being here.

  16. Nice read and a reasonably written article.

    I lived in Quito for awhile, and have traveled around Ecuador as well. Guayaquil, Salinas, Otavalo, Cuenca and so on.

    While living in Quito, nothing happened to me, but I also sensed this danger, unsettling feeling as well.

    I’ve lived in many countries, have probably been to 30+ countries and feel experienced enough to evaluate threats to personal safety in cities.

    You’re spot on. There’s a noticeable tension in the air and there are plenty of opportunities for discrete robberies and violence in the city due to its economic status and overall design.

    Locals everywhere, often urge caution about crime and robberies in their cities.

    I’ve lived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for nearly 4 years now and the locals urge the same caution as if this place is an urban war zone.

    I blow it off. I feel zero danger and blow it off.

    In the case of Quito, I thought you approached the subject practically and with reasonable restraint.

    Good stuff.

  17. Having traveled around South America a bunch, I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in this article. Quito and Guayaquil were among the least safe places I encountered in the whole continent. It seems like you are constantly surrounded by fake taxis looking to kidnap you from the moment you walk out of the airport. Other countries do a much better job of policing that. Ecuador just doesn’t have or devote enough money to protecting people. One of their presidential candidates literally got paseo millonario’d a few years back lol.

  18. I haven’t been to Quito just yet. However I have read from many other sites pros and cons of safety issues in Ecuador patricianly Quito. To me it seems that it is only a matter of common sense. In Miami (as one commenter has involved Maimi in this discussion) I did have a personal criminal act perpetrated upon me. NOT violent, but a conjob. I was swindled out of a cheque that he promised to ‘double the amount’ for me. Back then I was rather naïve and inexperienced. Now of course that has all changed. It was a small sum (large to me) but it had indeed happened to me It just goes to show that not just Quito, but many other places in developing countries seem to have this problem borne out of poverty. These people (not to defend their criminal activity) are not out to deliberately hurt tourists or others, but who are desperate as to survive. Facing such conditions as poverty disease and corruption in many underdeveloped countries produces this element.

    Thus I find it rather difficult to find exceptional fault with one place (such as Quito) than others of this nature. This fear which tends to be somewhat unfounded only further hurts these poor people as people are driven away from visiting these areas thus winding up not receiving the finances from the tourist industry that many of these places really need.

    To me it is a real dis-service to the general population as to suggest people avoid visiting these places as that further hurts their economy just making it just the more difficult for those impoverished to escape the shackles of their plight. New York City and Los Angeles also have been centres of petty criminal activity (if not worse0 and yet people still visit these two American cities!

    Both Honduras and Venezuela have only recently been voted as the most violent places on Earth and far exceeding mere petty crimes such as robbery and theft. In Venezuela alone every 21 minutes out a 24 hour day, someone is murdered! I seriously doubt that both Guayaquil and Quito are any worse off than this record setting situation in Venezuela.

    From what I understand (and indeed as an ardent advocate for railway and other forms of land based transport electrification, I have to visit Quito for their ‘el troley’ (a trolleybus BRT or bus rapid transport) and their new driverless metro, as well as their two ropeways which offer spectacular views of the city.

    Again common sense is the key for surbibal in Quito or any other place that has been experiencing impoverished circumstances, no difference! PLEASE, DO visit Quito, don’t let irrational fear keep you away! The economy needs your tourist dollars that would help in mitigating this petty crime situation. Thank you!

  19. What’s your fu.king problem, stupid as.hole? Why don’t you write this s.it about your own country. You are fucking obssesed about Ecuador. There are 100000 cities that are more dangerous but insist on writing about Quito. Prople treated you well when you were there and you use every word they said to diffamate their country. You should be ashamed of yourself! This fu.king site appears in every search of Quito, you are damaging the country very badly. You said that you are against oil drilling. But what is going to happen if more stupi. people like you affect tourism? …more oil drilling. If you write a post about insecurity in Medellin. Guess what: lots of people will agree. But not because it’s true, not because you’re right but because the title of the post atracts people that had bad experiences. Stop messing with Quito. Be constructive, not destructive, tell about the experiences that you enjoyed, if you didn’t like Quito, don’t make any post about it. Why the f..k do you win convincing people not to go to Ecuador. It’s a small country, if tourism doesn’t grow, oil and mining companies will destroy it in a few years. This is what you want??? I’ve been stolen in Quito, yes. But this things just don’t happen if you know how to take care of yourself, my mother and my sisters lived all their life in Quito and they’ve never been stolen. You could just advice people to be extra carefull in many cities, not just Quito. But this s..t isn’t necessary.

    1. I have written about those other countries sir, Buenos Aires, Venezuela, all of them. I would however recommend that you learn how to speak people properly. Just because your are “offended” by the comments I have stated… which I remind you come from local Ecuadorean people that have grown up in Quito and personal friends that lived there for more than 4 months, does not mean you can behave that way. I’m sure you feel proud of yourself behind your little computer screen. There is a respectful way to debate a topic one of them is not spewing the comments you have just expressed. Says everything about you sir…. your mother would be proud. The fact that you are writing this from Buenos Aires tells me everything. Best of luck to you Sir and your manners.

  20. Hi. I agree that Quito is potentially dangerous when I was there in 2010. I stayed in the old town and also the Mariscal after I returned from the Galapagos. On the back of the hostel entrance door it said under any circumstances not to wait outside w your luggage until you are absolute certain that your taxi is waiting and it’s yours .( dark hours). This was an early morning start from the old town to fly out to the Galapagos . At this same hostel I walked down the street toward the main road one night to get dinner and this guy was about to go after me and I just jumped straight into a taxi waiting in traffic at the bottom of the street . I wasn’t planning on taking a taxi ! Even the taxi driver said he was going to rob me . Unnerving ! A French guy lost his backpack containing his passport the day before his flight at a restaraunt attached to the hostel in the Mariscal. Professional thieves . Silly to leave passport in a bag under a table with a big group . And Guayaquil had a serious problem w taxi secuestros . In cahoots w gangs intercepting taxis and then driving to ATMs . A big write up in the local newspaper . Sometimes it pays not to read the local newspaper !
    Spent 9 months in South America on my own and Medellin was my favourite city . Very friendly people , great transportation . Even went to one of the barrios which you shouldn’t but was visiting a Colombian family . If you visit somewhere and nothing happens I guess you can assume it’s safe. It’s when something happens and you think differently . Ecuador was great , just don’t be naive and yes , carry money in your sock if your going out partying and also have something to give up . I recommend Ecuador and Lago Agrio for a trip to the Amazon .

  21. I absolutely loved Quito when I visited in 2013, it is a stunning place. It however is definitely not somewhere I would call safe. The government has made a lot of effort to make sure that the colonial and touristy areas are secure but outside of those areas it’s actually considered pretty dangerous. I went when I was in high school and we weren’t allowed outside at night or to walk alone on the streets during the day.

  22. I just returned from Quito a few days ago for the UN Habitat III Conference and can attest to the crime. There was a huge police presence during the conference and yet we were still not safe. The minute the conference was over, the police were gone and it was even less safe.

    We were robbed (both on the street and in our hotel room), followed, had a cell phone stolen out of one of our colleagues hands, and were accosted by aggressive thieves. As well, we were stuck after dinner without a cab and had to flag one down which we were told to NEVER do. Locals said they never, ever hail cabs and to only call for them and get the plate number over the phone to make sure it is safe because people will overhear you calling for a cab and they will quickly call friends to show up and then take you for a ride to rip you off (or worse, assault you). This came directly from Ecuadorians.

    The air pollution in Quito was horrific. All of our large group had respiratory problems and were blowing black gunk out of our noses (sorry, tmi). The water is not safe to drink (everyone got some type of stomach bug despite our being very careful).

    We had to take a taxi at night and it was one of the scariest of our lives. We’re all very seasoned travelers and yet were still nervous. The cab driver pretended to know where to go (we showed him our hotel on 6 Decembre street and then midway through a wild ride he pretended to not know where it was (it is THE main street). He called up a friend while driving and we thought he was coordinating something and that we were going to be taken elsewhere and robbed/assaulted. He drove us around Quito in the dark for an hour pretending not to know how to get to the main downtown area and instead took us through the most dangerous neighborhoods. It was only through the grace of God that we finally made it back to our hotel. We had to be firm and let him know we knew what he was doing and it seemed to work. But really, after we told our story to a few locals they were white in the face and were absolutely beside themselves because they won’t even take a cab because it is so dangerous. Live and learn, I guess.

    I’ll never go back. The only positive was the beautiful Andes mountains and getting out of Quito. Gorgeous scenery!

  23. This article is correct. Quito definitely isn’t safe. I was there for several days in 2011, and I’m returning in a couple of months. I was with my boyfriend in 2011, and while we did not get robbed, we were in the minority. Even the flight attendant on the airplane from Quito to Baltra, who lives in Quito mentioned that he gets robbed about every 3 months. We spoke with several tourists who were robbed while we were there. A Canadian couple mentioned that they had a camera snatched away from them. Two Australian tourists had a lovely concoction of feces thrown at them while they were walking down the street, which disoriented them and made them easy targets. I think that my boyfriend and I did not get robbed because we are taller and more intimidating. My boyfriend is 6’4 and weights about 240lbs, so he’s not the most attractive target. I’m returning in a couple of months with my mother for one day, en route to the Galapagos, and I’m considering hiring a security person to accompany us around Quito. That may seem extreme, but hiring someone is cheap, which tips the cost/benefit analysis in favor of maximizing our safety.

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