Quito, Ecuador (May 17 - 20, 2016)

First impression of Quito, that the residence here are very friendly. Many tried to start a conversation and were not shy about informing us about the city and the nearby attractions. And I haven’t even gotten of the plane at this point, but the impression lasted.

My plane touched down late night, around 10:30pm. The cab ride from the airport to the hostel was roughly 1 hour. We, my college buddy and I, went straight to sleep. Each morning the hostel offers complimentary breakfast; so I munch on yoghurt, banana and toast with a sip of tea for my fueling breakfast.

First thing on the agenda for Quito is to explore the city. The struggles were real trying to get onto the bus platform. We didn’t realize that one side was the entry and the other was exit only. Failing, as we tried to force our way through the full height turnstile gate. Luckily reading signs is very helpful and we discovered the error of our ways quickly.

We meandered all over, viewing various statues, parks, churches and colonial city buildings, which are in need of some TLC. There is an abnormal amount of police on the streets patrolling (always with their lights on) or directing traffic even if there is an operating street light. Cabs are never short at hand. The weather being cloudy, I wrongly concluded that sunscreen was unnecessary; just to end up with a lovely pink hue on my face.

Late afternoon we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some items. My favorite was choosing random fruits we weren’t familiar with to test them out. The yellow pitahaya (dragon fruit species) had a savory, sour flavor and I would recommend everyone to try the fruit out or you are missing out in life.

The next day we hiked Pichincha Volcano (elevation of 4,784 m (15,696 ft). The first part was painless as we took the cable car, but then we had to work our way up a steady, rising incline. Breathing proved more difficult than usual in the high altitude as my untrained self had yet to acclimatize to the lower oxygen levels. The 3 hour skirmish was well worth the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the city below. This mountain probably offers the best views of the area and if laziness strikes, one can rent a horse which are located after the cable car ride.

After our excursion, we needed to still our hunger. For mere $2 I got some local soup, an entrée (rice, beans and chicken), a tiny slice of watermelon and a beverage. Not a bad deal. Then we tried our luck again by getting a foreign fruit. I had to research the name of the fruit online, but the pepino melon left me disappointed. I’m glad though to have gotten to try the fruit since 20 cents is worth a new experience.

Overall Quito has been pleasant. Being rated the most likely city to be pick-pocketed, I didn't come across any issues or discomfort. The web makes this city sound way more dangerous than reality. With a healthy amount of common sense, anyone can enjoy this place like any other city.

Cost breakdown of Quito in USD:
• Housing: $27 (3 hostel nights which included breakfast)
• Transportation: $29.25 (included the $25 cab fare from the airport to the hostel)
• Food: $14.74
• Activities: $8.5 (Gondola Ride)

Average Daily Cost: $26.50

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