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.
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.
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.
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.