Although Ecuador is considered to be the safest South American country for traveling it is important to exercise caution and watch your valuables at all times. Snatch thieves operating in crowded streets and markets are the most common criminals. Often they work in pairs, one of which distracts you, while the other relieves you of your bag, your camera and your watch. If a woman carrying a baby trips up in front of you in a market, watch your back. Other scams include contrived fights and pretend drunks.
In one classic scam, "Misdirected Man" gets on a bus carrying lots of bags and looking all confused. He sits next to you, claiming it's his seat. Then he realizes he's on the wrong bus. He jumps up and off the bus in hurry, taking his and one of your bags with him.
Also watch out for people who claim to be plain-clothes policemen. This is often just an excuse for some form of extortion. If they ask you to get in a car because they want your help in investigating a crime, or they claim youíve been seen talking to drug dealers, do not do so in any circumstances. Instead, insist that they go with you on foot to the police station. Chances are they are hassling you, hoping you'll give them some money to go away.
Although they are generally safe and honest, you might encounter a troublesome taxi driver. Taking taxis late at night, especially if you are alone and have had a few drinks, can be hazardous. For safety, pick up a cab from a stand outside one of the better hotels. If you donít like the look of a driver don't get in the cab.
Common sense is your best sense in any city. The first rule is to avoid dangerous neighborhoods, especially with valuables. In Quito
, the narrow market street of Ipiales near the Church of San Francisco in the Old Town is notorious for its pickpockets, as is 24 de Mayo for general vice and danger. The roads leading up to the Virgin Statue on the hill known as El Panecillo
[Little Bread Roll
] in the old town is known for assault and robbery. The Terminal Terrestre bus station is a hangout for petty thieves. And stay out of all city parks after dark, especially Carolina and Ejido.
Always carry a copy of your passport, police sometimes make spot identification checks. Photocopy all your documents, and try to keep them separate from your person. Use hotel safes where possible, insisting on a receipt for anything you hand over. Keep an emergency phone card on you. On a slip inside your passport, write "en caso de emergencia, llamar a": and insert the details of at least one of your relatives or friends to be contacted in case of an accident. Include your blood type [tipo de sangre
], and any allergies [alergias
] you might have.