One of the cheapest and most interesting ways to explore Ecuador is to use buses and coaches to travel between or within the towns and cities of the country. However, it can be challenging to plan your trip in advance as, like most countries in South America, there are usually many different bus companies operating these services. Most of the cities will have bus services that will link them to the main cities of Guayaquil and Quito; Navigating routes off the traditional tourist trail may require some patience and flexibility regarding the timing and frankness (or lack thereof) of your route.
Different kinds of bus services
Buses in Ecuador vary in terms of comfort and facilities, and the longer intercity routes are usually served by the best coaches. Generally referred to as executive or luxury coach, they are often equipped with bathrooms and air conditioning. Standard buses tend to have cheaper tickets, but are generally slower with more stops and allow people to stand in the aisles during the trip. For those traveling to the more rural and remote parts of the country, there are smaller informal bus services that make use of any available vehicle.
Long-distance bus routes
There are many bus companies offering long-distance bus routes throughout Ecuador, and those who speak some Spanish should be able to find the routes they want quite easily. Most towns and cities will have a main bus terminal known as the “Terminal Terrestre”, while in Quito there is the “Terminal Quitumbe” for most of the routes heading south of the city and the ” Terminal Carcelen »serving routes to Carchi and Imbabura north of the city In Quito and some other cities in Ecuador, the largest bus companies, such as TransEsmereldas and Flota Imbabura, operate their own bus stations apart from the« Terminal Terrestre » principal.
There are no direct bus services that take people across the border into Colombia, but there are bus stations on both sides of the border.
For those traveling to Peru, services are offered by CIFA and Transportes Loja, where they will disembark on the Ecuadorian side of the border, cross the border crossing on foot, and then join the bus on the other side.
If you plan to take a slower route through the more remote areas of Ecuador, or if you are going off the normal tourist route, there are many small local buses available, but most people will need to speak some Spanish to discover the routes. and navigate through them correctly. Smaller city-to-city routes may have standard buses on the route; however, villages and rural areas can only be served by minibuses, trucks and vans that have been converted with wooden benches to transport passengers.
These won’t be the safest methods of transportation, but at least they have the benefit of being cheap. Those heading to the Andes will also come across Chiva Buses, old-fashioned American school buses with a roof rack.
Urban bus networks in Quito and Guayaquil
Both Quito and Guayaquil have their own bus systems throughout the city that offer cheap and easy ways to explore attractions. In Quito, there are three bus routes known as El Trole, Metrobus and Ecovia. They can be conveniently identified by the bus stop colors of green, blue and red respectively, with the red Ecovia route serving the city’s historic district. In Guayaquil, the bus system is known as Metrovia. It has two routes that go from north to south and from east to west through the city.