As a newcomer to the big, crazy city of Quito, it’ll take a bit of time to adjust to the local way of life and culture. And, as with any big city, there are certain dos and don’ts that you’ll learn along the way. To give you a head start (and avoid some of the teething problems) here are 8 things you should avoid doing in the city from the get go.

1. Take public transport during rush hour

Rush hour in Quito — © Mike W. / Flickr.
Rush hour in Quito — © Mike W. / Flickr.

Unless you need to get to Spanish class, avoid taking public transport in the city during rush hour. This is when all of the buses and trains are uncomfortably packed and your journey will take twice as long. You also run a higher risk of being pick-pocketed during these crowded times of the day. If you do have to go anywhere during these hours, it’s worth shelling out a few extra dollars and taking a taxi or Uber.

2. Flash your valuables in public

While Quito is a safe city for the most part, there are a few things you need to be aware of to stay safe in Quito. One of them is to be discrete with your valuables in public and avoid waving them around for all to see, as they will well get snatched before you know what’s hit you. This includes your cellphone, money, cameras and any expensive jewelry.

3. Eat street food during your first few days

Eating street food in Quito — © Mike W. / Flickr.
Eating street food in Quito — © Mike W. / Flickr.

Some of the best food can be found on the streets of Quito and in the colorful markets, but, as with street food on any foreign continent, quality and hygiene standards aren’t always high on the priority list. We’re not suggesting you should abstain from eating it but be cautious and give your stomach time to harden itself up to the local bacteria that the quiteños are used to. Avoid eating too much of it in your first few days while your body is still adjusting to the high altitudes to avoid any unwanted sickness.

4. Assume that everyone speaks English

While some people in Quito can speak English, they might be shy about it and, in some cases, may turn you away if you ask for help in English. Always make the effort to try out your Spanish first and if that fails then try speaking to the person in English or resorting to Google Translate on your phone. Start brushing up on some Spanish before you even arrive and check out this guide to familiarize yourself with the local lingo. No one is going to make fun of you for trying.

5. Go hiking without telling someone where you’re going

Hike safely in and around Quito — © Alejandro Miranda / Pixabay.
Hike safely in and around Quito — © Alejandro Miranda / Pixabay.

If you’re a hiking fanatic, Quito has some stunning valleys, volcanoes and mountains on its doorstep and you’ll be itching to get out and explore. However it’s important to get your body used to the high altitudes in Quito before you venture further afield to limit the risks of altitude sickness (symptoms include headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness). Just to be on the safe side, always check with a trusted local guide about walking trails and weather conditions before you venture off into the unknown, and let a friend or contact know where you’re going and when you plan to return.

6. Go out without a pocket full of small change and bills

Pay with small bills and coins in Quito — © Golden_Brown / iStock.
Pay with small bills and coins in Quito — © Golden_Brown / iStock.

Small bills and coins are in high demand in Quito so keep a stock of change on you at all times and don’t give it up unless you have to. If you hand over a $50 bill to a taxi driver or small shop vendor, they’ll probably snort in your face and won’t have enough change to give back to you so be prepared. You’ll also need coins to ride the buses.

7. Accept the first price at the local market

Bargaining is part of the game at the local markets so don’t be afraid to take part in a bit of friendly negotiation when you’re shopping for souvenirs and local crafts. More often than not, vendors will try their luck with tourists and ask for more than the value. Don’t accept the first price they give you and show them you mean business by speaking to them in Spanish. If you’re still in doubt, go back another day with a local friend and get them to do the talking for you.

8. Drink the tap water

Don’t drink tap water in Quito — © Henryk Niestrój / Pixabay.
Don’t drink tap water in Quito — © Henryk Niestrój / Pixabay.

Even if you see the Ecuadorians drinking it, avoid the tap water in Quito. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Stick to buying bottled water and, if you get caught out, boil the tap water first (and then cool it) before drinking it.

Got any other suggestions to add to the list? Share them with our readers in the comments section below.

Originally published on Ailola by Sophie Lloyd on March 4, 2019.