You can research all you want but there are always things you will wish you would have known before heading abroad. Here are some things that I wasn’t fully prepared for and would like to share with all future travelers going to Quito, Ecuador!
Quito is between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit all year-round. Personally, I thought that seemed pretty warm. Well, I thought wrong. Quito is also 2,800 meters (9,350 feet above sea level.
Tip número uno:
Bring a warm jacket!! I would recommend a practical one that you can wear to class, work, and out at night. If you have space I would even bring two. One windbreaker and one that is waterproof and warm. For packing in general, I would recommend two or three sweaters and a few pairs of pants. I learned the hard way by not bringing warm clothes.
Tip número dos:
CASH, CASH, CASH! Little did I know that carrying 50-dollar bills with me would be a terrible decision! I thought bringing cash would be a smart idea but didn’t think of the bill size. Big bills are very hard to break here. So if you bring cash, make sure they are 20-dollar bills or less. You will use change for the bus, going to eat, taxis… everything!!! Change will be your best friend. That being said, if you happen to have bigger bills with you, go to bigger stores like Supermaxi (there are multiple ones around the city) and they will be able to give you change.
Tip número tres:
TAXIS! Taxis are a common use of transportation throughout Quito. There are legal and illegal taxis going around the city. Always take a legal taxi! Things to look for in a legal taxi include having an orange license plate, a 4-digit number on the side of the cab, a top light that says taxi, and a taximeter inside. Also, if you have bigger bills and are planning to take a taxi, make sure to ask the driver if he or she has enough change before you enter.
Tip número cuatro:
Bring a copy of your passport! You may even want to bring multiple copies, 5, 6, or 7…you can never be too prepared! You can use copies to order drinks, get into bars, and then, of course, have on you at all times just to be safe! Whether you are interning, volunteering, studying, or just traveling to Ecuador this is very important!
Tip número cinco:
Quito is high up!! Everyone will warn you or at least they should to drink plenty of fluids both before arriving and for the first few days. DO IT. Make sure to bring at least a one-liter water bottle so that you can always be hydrated! Trust me, when you are out of breath from walking five blocks you are going to want to have that water bottle!
Tip número seis:
Remember that even if you are interning or studying from the US – you are now in South America. You are not an American anymore. You are a gringo, gringa, Estadounidense, or “de los Estados Unidos”. Ecuadorians are Americans, too. I let it slip once or twice the first few days and I was quickly corrected. Some people take it more seriously than others, so keep this in mind!
Tip número siete:
Be confident! If you are confident and don’t have a nervous look on your face then people will be less likely to give you extra attention. My host dad, Carlos, was nice enough to tell me this so I am passing on that great advice!
Tip número ocho:
This may seem like a strange topic but I thought addressing bathrooms would be important. Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet! It is a huge taboo here and most people blame the poor sewage systems. You will probably see many warning signs in the bathroom but just in case you don’t; now you know!!
As they say, you can never be too prepared! But things will still catch you by surprise and that is all part of the journey!