Frugal and wise travelers looking for safe transportation from the Quito airport would be wise not to overlook public transportation options. Buses to the city of Quito operate from 6 AM to 10 PM. While the buses to the terminal for onward travel to other cities north or south operate from 6 AM to 8:30 PM.
You will find the buses right next to the taxi line as you exit the airport terminal. The taxi drivers will swarm you with offers of rides as you must must walk through them to reach your bus. One taxi driver offered me a ride to Terminal Carecelen for $15. Public bus options are only $2. If you are staying in local in Quito catch the bus to Terminal Rio Coca from which you can access any part of Quito. For those going anywhere else in Ecuador catch a bus to Terminal Carecelen. There is also an option to catch a bus directly to Quitumbe if you are heading south from Quito.
Use reasonable caution while in the bus terminals just like you would in any big city back home. While Ecuador is very safe crimes of opportunity could occur and unattended backs can disappear. Police are general present but use common sense. While on the bus keep your luggage and gear with you at all times and be attentive. That said this is my preferred mode of transportation in Ecuador and most of Latin America.
Terminal Terrestre Carecelen is a reasonably sized terminal as it is not to big to quickly survey. If you are traveling to towns or cities north of Quito you will catch your next bus from Carecelen. However if you are traveling to points south of Quito you will buy a ticket to Quitumbe unless you took the direct bus mentioned above.
Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe is huge and rather modern like a big airport. From Quitumbe you will buy a ticket to your destination to the south. There are many options and buses here. When you buy your ticket you will be directed to the place to catch your bus. Don't get over whelmed there are plenty of officials and nice people happy to help you navigate the terminal and find you bus. I find the bus drivers to be quite friendly and helpful too.
This trip I flew into Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport from Panama City after a couple of months in Guatemala. I quickly cleared customs and found a snack and some coffee. I then went outside and quickly found my bus to Terminal Carecelen as I was heading north to Otavalo to meet some friends.
The bus ride to Carecelen took about 45 minutes and my bus only had about six passengers. I was a very chill and nice ride with great scenery along the way. The mountains and valleys are breathtaking. The elevated view from the bus is much better than of a taxi.
Once at Terminal Terrestre Carecelen it is easy to find the ticket to your next destination. Signs are large and easy to read. The terminal is not huge either. The first sales counter I encountered was selling tickets to Otavalo so I bought one for $4. I took a short walk to dock 1 and waited maybe ten minutes for my bus to arrive.
The bus ride to Otavalo was pleasant. There were few riders initially as we departed the terminal. We would pick up and drop off other passengers along the way to Otavalo. The weather turned to light rain as we approached Otavalo this my views were obscured. Stops were more frequent as we approached the city of Otavalo.
Before I knew it we arrived at the terminal in Otavalo. I walked from the terminal to Plaza de Ponchos enjoying the fruit stand and vendors along the first block. The sights and smells brought back memories of previous visits here. The walk to the plaza is only five or six blocks. I met my friends Julian and Casandra at Balcon De Imbabura. They were waiting for me on the balcony enjoying some of the local craft beer.
If you are planing a visit to Ecuador and have any questions about the logistics please feel free to reach out or leave comments below. I am always happy to help. I strive to support the local economy and especially the local Ecuadorian owned businesses
You can also use these same services in reverse to catch a bus to the airport on your way back home. Learn more here https://www.aeropuertoquito.aero/es/guia-de-transporte.html
I primarily travel solo but you don't have to to enjoy this channel. Working as a river guide during summers in North America I don't earn a lot of money and live close to the federal poverty level. In spite of this I live a rich life on a frugal budget. If you would like to learn more about traveling in Latin America or maybe frugal travel tips visit Fast Fred Travels and if you would like to come rafting with me check out Fast Fred Rafts for details.