Quito’s airport is about 27 mi (43 km) outside of Quito’s Downtown District (also known as the Historic Center). This means that travelers wishing to get from the Quito airport to Downtown Quito will need to consider the numerous different options available for getting there:
- Taxi Cab and/or Ride-hailing Apps
- Private Transfer Service
- Public Bus
- Privately-owned Shared Bus
- Rental Car
Keep in mind that the estimated travel time for getting from the Quito airport to downtown is approximately 1 hour, depending on traffic conditions and the type of transportation you choose. If you’re deciding on how to get from Quito airport to the city center, here’s a quick look at what your options are and the benefits they offer:
Quito extends through a number of valleys located deep within the Andes mountain range of Ecuador. Getting from the Quito airport to the city proper or its downtown area can be fairly daunting. This is why it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the numerous transportation options that are available.
Arriving to and Exiting Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport
After landing at Quito’s airport, you’ll make your way through customs, collect your checked luggage, pass them through one last x-ray machine, and then cross through a set of sliding doors. This is the lower level of the terminal. A few steps away, there are numerous counters, some for rental vehicle agencies, others for local transportation services. Additionally, there will be folks in various uniforms offering additional options for getting from Quito’s airport to the city center, or wherever you’re headed in the area.
Just outside the airport, there are two lanes, one for official taxis, buses, and government vehicles. Just on the other side of the median, a second pick-up lane is host to all sorts of vehicles anxiously attempting to locate their travelers and maybe park for a few seconds. Police carefully monitor and regulate traffic here. Quito’s airport is a relatively busy one, and finding your ride here might seem like an overwhelming process (at first).
Follow along as we provide you with a list of different options for getting from the airport to Downtown Quito.
Transportation Options for Getting from the Quito Airport to Downtown
1. Taxis from Quito’s Airport to the City
Cab rides can be a fairly quick, efficient, and relatively cheap way of getting around. They can, however, be a little precarious since the terrain is quite mountainous. The language barrier can also be a challenge, as the majority of taxi drivers do not speak much English, if any at all.
The numerous taxis at Quito’s airport offer around-the-clock service and are found right outside the airport, waiting to pick up passengers along the aforementioned first pick-up lane. When taking a taxi, and regardless of the fact that there is a standard fare from the Quito airport to the city proper, it is always important to ask how much it will cost beforehand and confirm that the driver has change for any large bills you might be carrying.
- A taxi from the Quito Airport typically costs $25 (regardless of the number of passengers).
Make sure the taxi that you take is a yellow taxi with orange license plates and an official identification number displayed prominently on the windshield.
2. Ride-hailing Apps
The most popular ride-hailing apps in Ecuador are Uber, inDrive, and DiDi Rider. If you tend to use these apps, you’ll likely find them to be a decent option for getting around while in Quito. Even though they are not officially sanctioned by the government, they are widely used. If you opt for this way of getting from the Quito airport to downtown, you’ll need to meet your ride in the second pick-up lane just on the other side of the median outside of the Arrivals Terminal.
- The rate for ride-hailing apps from the Quito Airport can range anywhere between $20 and $30, depending on the time of day, demand, and traffic conditions.
Be sure to match the plate, the driver, and the name of the driver prior to getting into the vehicle. And if your driver requests that you sit upfront, this may be because they don’t want to give the appearance of being any type of taxi service.
3. Transfer Services
By far, the easiest, most comfortable, and most secure means of reaching your destination in the city of Quito from its airport is via a solid transfer service. You can arrange this in advance through your tour operator, travel agent, or even your hotel. A transfer service is different than an airport shuttle in that it is usually staffed by two people: a professional driver and a professional, multilingual guide.
The guide is often waiting to greet you on the other side of the sliding doors once you exit the checked baggage area (just look for the person holding up the sign with your name on it).
There are some additional benefits to hiring a transfer service, too. Most, including those arranged through hotels—like Casa Gangotena, via tour operators like Metropolitan Touring, or travel agencies such as Metrojourneys—guarantee that vehicles are properly registered and insured, and that drivers are licensed and guides have been trained in order to provide the best service possible.
The peace of mind passengers receive from hiring this service is often well worth it. Also, guides make good use of the travel time, providing you with key and important information about what to expect from Quito, how best to experience the city itself, and get around. Additionally, they’ll also delight you with notable facts and relevant history, as well as provide you with an idea of what it’s like to interact with the local culture.
4. Airport Buses and Shuttles
Quito’s Metropolitan District does have public transportation which, in this case, consists of a bus system with a route that stops at the Quito airport and heads to the city. However, these public buses are often crowded and make frequent stops along the way. Consequently, they can easily take more than twice as long to get to where you’re going. Plus, it’s not the easiest thing to lug your suitcase onto a fully-packed bus.
- The fare for these public buses from the Quito Airport is $2.In the morning, public buses begin operating at 5:30 a.m. local time and run on a limited schedule. Some routes end at 7 p.m., others at 10 p.m.
Some hotels that are located within a few miles or so of the airport do offer a shuttle service. Such is the case with the Wyndham Quito Airport, for instance. This is a free service and would simply need to be coordinated with the hotel.
One other option is to take a private bus from the Quito airport to the city. There are a couple of different companies (see the counters at the arrival terminal), the most popular of which is Aeroservicios. These privately-owned shared buses can provide more comfortable seating along with free Wi-Fi and even door-to-door service (similar to a transfer or a taxi).
- Prices can vary depending one what sector of the city you wish to go to, but typically they range between $8 to $18 per person. Operating hours span between 4 a.m. and midnight and buses tend to leave every 30 minutes or so.
Since the ride is shared, it can take a bit longer to get to your destination depending on where the bus needs to drop off the other passengers, and in which order the driver decides to do so.
5. Rental Cars
Major rental companies like Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise operate in Quito, but it’s important to review the rental agreement, as mileage may not always be unlimited and large deposits may be required.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that apps like Google Maps and Waze may not be entirely reliable, so be cautious of shortcuts that could lead to dangerous slopes or closed roads. If you’re familiar with Quito and require the freedom to drive, renting a vehicle may be a good option, as long as there are suitable parking options at your destination.
Welcome to Old Town Quito!
The Historic Center of Quito is regarded as the most well-preserved old town in all of South America! Its mix of cobblestone and paved streets crisscross in a beautiful pattern that blankets a rather dynamic and hilly terrain. Recent developments in this important district include the installation of a subway system (Metro de Quito) that is operational (but will not extend all the way to the airport anytime soon), the designation of a number of streets as pedestrian-only, and additional, ongoing efforts to make Old Town Quito even more charming and attractive than it already is.
When arriving via your elected means of transportation from the Quito airport to Downtown Quito, keep in mind that, during the day, there can be some spots with heavy traffic due to construction and/or rush hour. However, the beauty of this place makes for a really interesting ride, with so much to see. The most important thing is that you reach your destination safely and easily. So, without further ado – Welcome to Quito!