Is Quito Safe?

“Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don’t have the balls to live in the real world.” – Mary Shafer

travel to Quito Ecuador

viva Quito!

The safety of Ecuador, especially Quito, has been the subject of much debate online, and I’ve heard a ton of horror stories from other backpackers. At first, I listened to the paranoia spread like wildfire and considered skipping Ecuador altogether.

Then I reminded myself that travel savyness varies extremely from backpacker to backpacker. After talking to some well-seasoned travelers and Ecuador enthusiasts, I was assured that personal safety does have a little bit to do with luck, but it is mostly the result of my own actions.

Every Latin American capital has their gritty underbelly, and Quito is no exception. Just like any big city, taking a few precautions will keep you out of most trouble.

In my personal experience, I have had zero problems. In fact, I find the people of Quito to be rather friendly, helpful, and open.

The tourists. The look. The photos. by Matt Kowal, on Flickr

The tourists. The look. The photos. by Matt Kowal, on Flickr

The Old Town is full of travelers making stupid mistakes, mostly of the retiree age. There was the frail older couple walking along a semi-desolate street with a video camera strapped around their necks. Then there was the chunky middle-aged man dazedly admiring the architecture of a colonial church while he lightly gripped his expensive camera by the lens, strap hanging down to his knees (would have been an easy snatch job). And let’s not forget the classic backpacker with his nose stuck in a guidebook bumping into locals.

The Mariscal district, which is where the majority of hostels and nightlife is, has its fair share of “opportunists” as well. An inflated number of tourists in a small radius + alcohol = fair game for your local thug.

How to Stay Safe in Quito

  • Be aware. Before you pull out your camera, have a good look at your surroundings. Is anyone watching you? If you have a travel partner, ask them to look out for you while taking the photo.
  • Monitor your alcohol intake. The lanky blonde stumbling home drunk after a big night out makes an easy target.
  • Only carry the essentials. You probably won’t need the contents of your bank account and your passport when you go out for lunch.
  • Choose your location wisely. If you’re staying in a hostel in La Mariscal, choose a hostel on a busy street like Hostal Huauki, which is a block from Plaza Foch and two from the metro.
  • Minimize your flash factor. An expensive watch, designer sunglasses, or anything else that goes BLING will attract attention for all the wrong reasons.
  • Trust your instincts. They’ll never steer your wrong.

Have you been to Quito? What have your experiences been? Leave your comment here.

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  • Bryan Brough

    It is tough for me personally as a traveling professional photographer safety wise, because every where I go I carry a ton of expensive camera gear, I mean it’s how I make money. When I am out shooting photos in a new area I always: Wrap the camera strap around my wrist holding the camera with a firm grip at all times. I also try to look like I am walking with a purpose not just wandering aimlessly. And I always get the shot I am after and move on, the longer you linger the more you stand out.

  • Those are great tips… after I take a photo, I like to stay on a busy-ish street for awhile as well, instead of ducking into an alley or something.

  • Gar

    I traveled in Ecuador, including Quito, in 2008 for a couple of months. I never had any problems but then, I’m an old(er) guy, not much of a party person. I try to always be aware of my surroundings and don’t “bling”. I also don’t do the usual tourist type things, preferring volunteering most of the time.

  • I think some awareness is all it takes to be safe in Quito, just like most places.