What You Need to Know About Living in Quito, Ecuador

About a year and a half ago, I went on a study abroad trip to Ecuador, this was my first long stent trip and first time in a country other than Brazil or the good ol’ USA.

Although I would never consider myself an expert in travel or know everything a person should know about Ecuador, I hope that my experience has some good learning points which can be of use to others. So here are some of the things I learned while living in Quito for three months.

Bring an umbrella

Upon arrival to Quito, the first thing I noticed was how green it was, it was winter back home during the time, and it was raining and somewhat warm here in Quito. This is definitely something to keep in mind because IT. RAINS. OFTEN.  It rained nearly all day every day during the entire month of March, with only a little sun right at noon.

Toilets

Like most countries in South America, the water pressure is very poor, so you are not able to flush toilet paper. This is why you will always find a small trash can next to each toilet and in every stall. Also keep in mind that toilet paper is not cheap, it’s a good idea to keep extra with you at all times as many public restrooms charge for paper.

Tour Packages are a Joke!

During my last month in Quito, I went on a three-day trip to the Galapagos islands with two of the girls I was traveling with. The tour we booked had us doing specific things each day and staying in specific places each night, which would not have been so bad if we had at least been able to choose where we could eat. We had booked our travel with the school and didn’t know what to expect until about three days before our trip. So we aren’t really to blame for our poor experience whilst on the islands. Don’t get me wrong, the Galapagos are wonderful and everyone should see them at least once, but our trip was over planned and we had little free time to do the things we wanted. I recommend taking tours but planning your own stays so that you can choose when to do the things you want.

Befriend a local

During my three months in the city, I met and became friends with many locals. Having a friend who can explain the culture and give you rides (I had no car, and am not confident enough to drive in South America) can come in handy often.

 

Traffic

 Maybe this is just my opinion because I’m from a small town, but traffic in Quito is crazy. It seemed like every time I tried to cross the street I would almost get run over. Also, people in Quito don’t wait for the crosswalk jaywalking is very common.

Casa de Arbol. Baños, Ecuador

There is so much to do

There are many wonderful trips to go on and lovely small towns to adventure in. I recommend going to Baños and Mindo for sure there are also trips to the Galapagos and rainforest to consider.

Living in Quito was an amazing experience, one I will never forget. I hope my future holds more trips back to see the people there and the city I’ve come to consider my second home.

How to survive in Rio when you’re broke

Ah Rio, of all the places I’ve traveled, and they’re not really that many, I love Brazil the most, and Rio is one of the most lovely places I’ve been to in this country.

View of Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro

I like to consider myself someone who keeps good track of my money and how I’m spending it… just kidding this is a total lie! So let me tell you how I ran out of money while spending a week in Rio de Janiero. And how I made it to the end of the week with just enough money to pay an uber for a ride to the airport.

First of all, I went into this situation knowing I didn’t have much money. I had just spent three months in Ecuador and had no way to make extra money, but my flights were already booked so I figured, hey I can survive a week in a hostel with not much food. Thankfully, said hostel provided breakfast each morning giving me one less meal to worry about during my stay.

All that being said, I’ll share with you some the things I did to keep from spending what little money I did have.

Book and pay for your hostel ahead of time. Arriving in Rio and already having a place to stay was really nice. I like to use booking.com when choosing where to stay, they usually have really good deals, and let you compare places to stay. It’s also a good idea to choose a place that will provide breakfast at no extra charge, like I said before it was nice to have one less meal to think about.

If you enjoy the beach, you can spend most of your time at the beach laying out or swimming, this is what I did, the beach is free and it’s beautiful.

Do a lot of walking. The majority of the most famous attractions in Rio are accessible by foot, with the exception of Christ the Redeemer which you can get to by bus or train. I went to Sugarloaf by foot and had no trouble walking. Just plan ahead as it can take around 45 minutes depending on what part of Copacabana beach you start. (I was staying two blocks from the beach so this may not apply to you)

Two of my roommates from the hostel and I in front of a sandcastle

Stay away from the restaurants and bars right on the beach. These places tend to be more expensive as they have the view and beach access. I tried to stick to places a few blocks away from the beach, or I just bought things from grocery stores I could prepare in my hostel.

Find the discounts. When visiting places like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf it’s a good idea to check the websites first as they offer discounts to students no matter your citizenship and to Rio’s locals.

Christ the Redeemer

The only other advice I can give is to be watchful, Rio can be dangerous if you get into the wrong neighborhoods. The majority of the time through the people you will meet will be some of the nicest you’ve ever come in contact with so enjoy your time, have fun it’s Rio!

 

 

What is home?

Having trouble adjusting to the new normal is… well normal. After returning home from a long trip it’s hard not to go through culture shock, or feel as though no one wants to hear about your trip anymore. Didn’t I just travel to another country? Why is my life still exactly the same as before I left?

After returning home from my last trip, it was hard to get back into my old routine. My life went back to the way it had always been despite my having copacabana beach or the Galapagos Islands. My work routine became the same, my routine at home became the same. I felt as though I needed a change.

Now I know my life will always feel different each time I return from another country. The choice is mine wether or not I notice that change and decide to live with it.

First Solo Trip

Well here I am in Brazil! I am finally back to this beloved country after almost a year, man I love it here. I love the people, the views, and the defiantly the weather. After spending three months in Quito Ecuador, where it rained everyday the past month, it is nice to be somewhere hot and sunny. This current trip is going to take me to three different cities within three weeks, Campos, São Paulo, and finally Rio. Thankfully I already have places to stay in each of these places, and friends to meet with most of the time.

Solo travel can be a bit scary, especially when you don’t know the language. I’ve also heard it can be dangerous for women, but so far I have not had many problems. Thankfully I happened to already have friends here in Brazil, who speak English, from my previous travels here with groups. When I first arrived in Rio on Sunday, I was defiantly a little overwhelmed, I had never been in another country completely alone. But I managed to find a taxi, though I am still not quite sure if I was cheated on the price or not, then the right bus station and was on my way to Campos dos Goytacazes, a small city about four hours north of Rio. I spent a week there with my friends I had met two years before, seeing familiar faces was good, especially after the long trip and not being able to really have a conversation with anyone because of the language barrier.

Campos is defiantly not a tourist attraction, but I enjoyed it none the less. The city is about a forty-five minute drive from the beach. The weather is extremely hot during the day this time of year, but the evenings are perfect with a cool breeze, and the city is small enough you can see the stars at night. My first three days I stayed in Jardim do Allah Flat Service a nice hotel-like apartment place with a pool and free breakfast, the coffee was really good, my stay was totally worth the price. The people of campos, like most of the people you will meet in Brazil, are incredibly kind and hospitable. A friend of my friend let me stay in their home for three days without even knowing me. I am so thankful for the time I spent their, and can’t wait to go back. If you should find yourself in Campos for some reason, I recommend going to a park called Jardim São Benedito Praça Nilo Peçanha they have the best acai juice I have tried yet. If you don’t know what acai is then you are missing out, come to Brazil, try it.

While in Campos I had the chance to join my friend, who is an English teacher there, in his classes. Helping kids learn English is one of my dreams, and I believe what I will be doing the next time I come to Brazil.

Here are a few tips, with my limited experience, about solo travel in a country where you don’t speak the language:

If you don’t have uber yet, download it. I didn’t before because I grew up in a very small town and had my own car, uber was never useful for me. It’s nice because you can give directions without having to speak the language at all.

If you have to get a taxi, watch out for unmarked ones. I was in a situation with one of these, the taxi driver met me at the exit of the airport and walked me across the street, this should have been the first sign, then we got into a black car, by this time I was not very trusting of this guy, but I had been traveling for hours so I really didn’t care. Thankfully nothing bad happened, but it was an experience I will avoid in the future now that I know the signs to look for. Make sure the taxi you take is standing next to his cab and that it is yellow, in some cities white (São Paulo) or grey (Campos), and that it actually says taxi on it somewhere.

Book your hotels or hostels ahead of time, this is also mostly for language reasons. Also booking ahead of time when you about to head to a popular place, Copacabana for example, is a good idea as the hotels close to the beach fill up fast.

When traveling through Brazil it can be hard to determine the time needed sometimes buses take forever, and sometimes they are right about on time. This is why whenever I take a bus I will allow around two hours extra for travel, especially if I am on my way to the airport. This may mean you will be waiting in the airport extra time, but it is worth it to not miss your flight. 

When traveling in general I recommend taking as little luggage as possible. For this particular trip I am traveling with one backpack and a knapsack. I only use carry-on, which means I always have a backpack with me, but this also means I don’t have to worry about losing my stuff because it is always there with me. While I was living in Ecuador the past three months, I had a lot of clothing, probably too much. I sent my luggage home with a friend of mine so I wouldn’t have to carry around my entire life while I’m here. Turns out I had collected so much clothing and gifts for friends and family that I couldn’t pack everything I had. I ended up leaving about six outfits at my host family’s house. Right now I have about five outfits and one swimsuit, and I think I could have gotten by with less.

I am currently in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, spending time getting to know the city before heading a little further north to spend the week with another friend. I was fortunate enough to land a place to stay with a friend of a friend again, this time they are americans which is cool, no language barrier. I have not had the chance to see much of São Paulo as of yet, but today will be my day to explore one of the biggest cities in latin america.