Quito’s historic and architectural diversity is as impressive as any capital city on Earth, not to mention it’s location, 2,580m in the Andean Foothills and the fact that it is built on the foundations of an ancient Inca city. Quito has a variety of well preserved buildings from the 16th & 17th centuries, with a mixture of styles, from the Moors, to Europeans and the remains of its indigenous past – providing a timeline of this city’s fascinating history.
Quito, also know as the ‘middle of the world’ is the capital city of Ecuador and is a must-see destination for many keen travellers. Many travellers also use Quito as a base when planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands which are accessible with a 3 hour flight from the city.
You have probably found this article because you are conducting some thorough research, like any sensible, sustainable traveller and are trying to determine how safe Quito is as a city and what impact your tourism may have.
This article will focus on the important subject of safety in Quito and any possible dangers a tourist or citizen might face in the city, in addition to our top Quito safety tips. We hope this comprehensive resource can put you at ease and prepare you for an unforgettable trip to Quito, Ecuador.
Is Quito safe right now?
Quito is considered as safe as any capital city in South America which attracts a large amount of visitors, however, tourists should always be vigilant and use common sense in public areas as pick pocketing is common in this region. Like any city, Quito also has its less friendly areas and it is advised to avoid them if possible.
When booking accommodation, it is wise to do your research and read reviews to determine how safe the area is to walk around at night. Online forums are also fantastic resources to ask locals and people who know the city directly, they may also provide recommendations and useful information.
Areas to watch out for in Quito are: La Carolina’ and ‘El Ejido’ parks, the districts of ‘La Mariscal’, ‘La Floresta’ & ‘La Marin’, the bus terminals and the old town, including the main square and ‘El Panecillo’ hill. If travelling to El Panecillo hill then you should do so by an organised tour, or a reliable form of transport.
Pickpockets and bag snatchers are known to operate in popular tourist areas so follow the usual rules of:
- Don’t keep valuables in your backpack
- Don’t keep things in your back pocket
- Lock the zips on your bags
- Invest in a money belt
- Keep your bags in front of you when using public transport
- Don’t wear expensive jewellery or watches
Criminals may use distracting techniques such as asking for assistance, or creating a staged fight or argument nearby.
Although extremely uncommon, Ecuador and South America also has cases of; muggings, armed robbery and express kidnapping, where an attacker forces a person to withdraw money from an ATM. Of course, these situations can be avoided by sticking to public places, not wandering around by yourself at night and researching the more dangerous neighbourhoods.
If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of such crimes then you should co-operate fully and hand over any valuables or money and let your travel insurance take care of the rest. Your insurance should cover all acts of crime but makes sure of this before heading to Ecuador and avoid choosing the cheapest option.
Hotel thefts are also a potential issue in Ecuador so it is recommended to keep valuables in the safe provided, or behind the reception area – always make sure to ask for a receipt if you are leaving valuables with a member of staff.
All Ecuadorian citizens are required to carry ID at all times and police officers can request to see it at any time, this can also apply to tourists. We do not advise carrying around your passport, so use a driving license, or a photocopied version of your passport or ID.
Is Quito safe for solo female travellers?
There are very few reports of assaults on women in Quito but this does not mean it is unheard of.
Females travelling alone in Ecuador should be careful and pay attention to their surroundings when out and about as you could receive unwanted attention. If you feel threatened then try to get to find a busy area and locate a police officer.
Quito has tourism police which operate in the north of the city, the old town, bus terminals and the airport.
There has been an increase in attacks and serious sexual assault on female tourists as the number of visitors to the city has grown, in some cases, drugs have been used on victims. One drug, is the home-made version of ‘scopolamine’ which is known to subdue victims, leaving them in a compliant state and usually results in amnesia. Do not accept, food, drinks, perfume samples, or cigarettes from any strangers, even if they seem friendly and respectable.
Whether you are male, or female, it is not advised to veer away from the main streets, particularly at night or in non-touristy areas.
Is Quito safe to live?
Locals are less likely to be a target for crimes such as pick pocketing or express kidnapping and the city is a relatively safe place to live and work. Despite this, the city does have its problems in terms of guns and violent crime, with a reported increase in armed assaults and robberies.
Child kidnappings have also been an uncommon but real problem for ex-pats and wealthy citizens in Ecuador and young children shouldn’t be left unsupervised in public parks and other areas which may be targeted by opportunist kidnappers.
When walking around the city it is also important to remember that pedestrians rarely have the right of way and crossings are generally disregarded by drivers. Crossing roads requires your full attention and a simple hand gesture to tell a car to slow down is your best way to avoid an accident.
Overall, the capital of Ecuador draws similarities to many other cities in this part of the world which all have their share of problems but in general, the streets are well policed, public transport is safe and the locals are helpful and friendly. Many of the horror stories you may hear in Latin America, could also be repeated in the US, or in European cities such as Paris or Barcelona.
Is Quito safe at night?
Like any city, Quito becomes a more dangerous proposition at night when criminals are more likely to operate in the cover of darkness. Walking around quiet streets at night is ill-advised and using registered taxis is the best way to avoid getting in any threatening situations and jeopardising your safety.
Tourists, especially women should also not walk around some parts of the city at night when possible, especially if they have been drinking – If you are planning a heavy night then try not to venture too far away from your hotel or hostel. Safe areas you can walk at night are La Ronda, República de El Salvador, and Plaza Foch.
Always be watchful of your money and mobile phone and avoid using it while walking the streets.
Is the tap water in Quito safe to drink?
Tap water is technically safe to drink in Quito but is not advised for tourists. The city’s water supply is deemed potable (safe to drink and to use in food preparation) but due to many old pipes and dated infrastructure, this water may get contaminated on its way to the tap.
To avoid any nasty bugs, tourists should drink bottled water in Ecuador, although tap water should be fine for tasks such as brushing your teeth and cooking. Even locals typically boil tap water to ensure it is drinkable and to avoid an upset stomach.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
Are taxis in Quito safe?
Taxis in Quito are generally safe but the danger lies in accidentally using an unlicensed taxi which is definitely not advised in Ecuador. Official taxis can be recognised by their orange license plates, or sometimes a white plate with an orange stripe on top – official taxis are usually fitted with video surveillance, instantly putting you at ease.
Quito’s interesting layout can provide some very quick car journeys, 65km from end-to-end, while the widest part in only 5km. Most transfers are typically north-to-south, with very little turns, so if you feel like the taxi is going round in circles then its a sign that the driver is probably ramping up the price.
If you do not want to take the risk with normal taxis, then you are in luck, as Quito and most cities in Ecuador are well serviced by app-based providers such as Uber, Easy Taxi and Cabify, limiting the risk of rogue drivers and scam artists by pre-paying on your phone.
The distance between Quito airport to the old town is around 43km and a pre-booked transfer is recommended. However, if you have not planned ahead, then you will easily be able to find a licensed taxi, although the language barrier may be an issue if your Spanish is not up to scratch – to save any hassle, using an app such as Uber would probably be the best choice.
Although the shuttle bus is extremely cheap it can also be very over-crowded and provides a great opportunity for pick pockets and bag snatchers.
Renting a car and driving around the city yourself is potentially risky due to the number of reckless drivers, speeding, poorly maintained vehicles and the general disregard for road safety – as a result, serious accidents are common in Ecuador.
Quito Travel Insurance
Always make sure to get travel insurance! Even if you’re only going for a short time, you should always take out travel insurance. Take our word, travel insurance can save you thousands of pounds – so make sure to get it before you leave.
We highly recommend using Safety Wing, but there are many insurance companies to choose from so make sure to shop around to find the best deal.
Top 9 Quito Safety Tips
- Ensure your travel and health insurance provides full cover and don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest option which may leave you seriously out of pocket should any problems occur. Travel insurance should cover the cost of all your luggage and belongings. Make sure it also protects you for incidents such as theft and lost baggage.
- Try to avoid getting around by foot at night time, especially in less touristy areas with very few people or police around. Safer areas include; La Ronda, República de El Salvador, and Plaza Foch – so if your accommodation is away from these districts, think about using a taxi or an Uber when going back after dark.
- Be conscious of pick pockets and bag thieves and follow precautions like using locks on zips, not carrying valuables and keeping your bag in front of you on public transport. Criminals tend to target crowded areas such as main squares and busy buses, so be extra vigilant in these situations.
- Use Uber or another taxi-service app instead of flagging down taxis in the street – although many taxi drivers are honest and licensed in Quito, there are also plenty of scam artists who will prey on unsuspecting tourists who are perhaps lost or tired from travelling.
- Be wary of overly friendly strangers as they could be trying to distract you and leave you open to pick pockets, or worse they may even attempt to drug you. Obviously the vast majority of locals in Ecuador are friendly and trust worthy but sometimes it is not worth the risk, especially if you are travelling alone.
- Use a safe which are usually provided in hotel rooms and apartments. If your room does not come with a safe then leave valuables behind the reception area and always ask for a receipt. Hotel theft can be a problem in Quito so booking accommodation with a safe is recommended.
- Drink bottled water as although the tap water is deemed safe to drink, it could be contaminated from old, poorly maintained pipework.
- Photocopy your passport as the law in Ecuador requires citizens and tourists to carry ID at all times but you do not want to risk losing your passport, or other important ID such as a drivers license. In most cases a police officer will accept a photocopied version from a tourist.
- Be careful of Quito’s drivers as many do not stop at pedestrian crossings and are known to speed. Ensure the car is going to slow down before you attempt to cross the road, maybe with a simple hand gesture, or perhaps look out for a local and just do what they do!
If you are planning a trip to Ecuador to enjoy the history and culture of Quito or the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands then we hope this article as been of help and you can look forward to planning your trip.