Quito’s airport is about 27 mi (43 km) outside of Quito’s Historic Center. This means that travelers wishing to get from the airport to Old Town 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 airport to Old Town Quito is approximately 1 hour, depending on traffic conditions and the type of transportation you choose. Here’s a quick look at what these 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 airport to Old Town Quito 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 the airport to wherever you’re headed.
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 Old Town Quito.
Transportation Options in Quito
1. Taxis from Quito’s Airport
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.
That said, there are two main taxi companies that operate in and out of Quito’s airport. One of these is called Univalles, the other is Cooperativa Aeropuerto. They offer around-the-clock service and are typically found right outside the airport, waiting to pick up passengers along the aforementioned first pick-up lane. When taking a taxi, it is important to ask how much it will cost beforehand. This particular trip, from the airport taxi stand to Quito typically costs between $25 and $35 (regardless of the number of passengers).
There are a couple of things worth keeping in mind. Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar and taxis in Quito tend to only take cash. Beware of cab drivers who sometimes insist they do not have change, especially if you’re trying to pay with larger bills. This can prolong your trip while the driver tries to locate a store or gas station where they can get change for your bill. It is important to agree on the price when you initially hire the service and, if need be, make sure that your taxi driver has change. 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 and Cabify. 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 airport to Old Town Quito, 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 Be sure to match the plate, the driver, and the name of the driver prior to getting into the vehicle. And if you’re 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. The standard rate for this service is also between $25 and $35, depending on the time of day and traffic conditions.
3. Transfer Services
By far, the easiest, most comfortable, and most secure means of reaching your destination in Quito from the 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, bi- or 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 airport. 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. If you’re looking to save money on transportation, the $2 fare can be quite attractive. Just keep in mind that, similar to other major cities in the world, you’ll need to be mindful of your belongings at all times. Wear your backpack facing front, and keep your wallet, passport, and cellphone out of fellow passengers’ reach. Again, if you’re not comfortable with your level of Spanish, this adventure can prove quite harrowing. Also, buses run on a limited schedule. Some routes end at 7 p.m., others at 10 p.m. In the morning, buses begin operating at 5:30 a.m. local time.
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 airport bus. 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, but typically they range between $10 and $15 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
Driving in Ecuador is not the easiest thing, even for the most accomplished drivers. Many vehicles are standard, so if you need an automatic, make sure you reserve one with your rental agency. Many of the most well-known car rental companies (like Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise) operate in Quito. Mileage is not always unlimited and, occasionally, the company may charge a rather large deposit as part of the rental agreement. It is a good idea to review the conditions prior to making your reservation.
One other consideration is that apps like Google Maps and Waze are not the most reliable in Ecuador. Sure, that shortcut may look perfect, but it may entail a rather dangerous slope or tertiary back road that may even be closed! That said, if you’ve been to Quito and are familiar with the city, renting a vehicle may give you all the freedom you need. Just check to make sure there are some solid parking options at your final 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) whose construction is almost complete (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 airport to Old Town 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. It can actually be a rather exciting experience. The most important thing is that you reach your destination safely and easily. So, without further ado – Welcome to Quito!