Quito, Ecuador: A Few Tips

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Quito, Ecuador: A Few Tips

Quito, Ecuador is located high in the Andes mountains. This beautiful city is a mix of historical and modern, with buildings dating back as far as the 1500’s nestled right next to brand new, modern office buildings.

For 12 years, my family and I called Quito our home. We learned to speak Spanish, immersed ourselves in the culture and when we left to return to the US permanently, a part of us remained firmly rooted in our adopted country.

The people in this lovely city are warm and welcoming to expats, but there are some things that we learned while we were there that can make visiting or moving there easier if you know them ahead of time.

Greetings

Learning to greet someone properly is the gateway to acceptance in this lovely, warm culture. When meeting someone for the first time, it’s important to shake hands – and the traditional greeting is “Mucho gusto”. Loosely translated, this means “Pleased to meet you.”

Although we have since returned to the US, I find myself daydreaming about our life there and wondering if we will ever find occasion to return - even for a visit.

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If you have formed a relationship with someone, you may greet them with a “besito” or “little kiss” on the cheek.  Typically men do not besito men, however women and men besito each other.

Bargaining

Quito is home to many artisan markets, with beautiful artwork, textiles, jewelry and handicrafts for sale.  Spending time at the markets is a lovely way to spend the day, and bargaining with the artisans is both cultural and fun.  It’s always good to remember that, ultimately, these are works of art created by people who are using this as a means to support their families. While it is enjoyable to bargain, keep the tone light and don’t insult the quality of the work by insisting on ridiculously low prices. Typically, getting $1-$2 off of the price of an item is considered “good taste”. If you are asking for more than that, it can be construed as an insult.

Dining

Ecuadorian cuisine is, in a word, wonderful. There are so many dishes that I could recommend you try. Keeping an open mind and being willing to try new things will open up a whole new world of culinary delights for you.

Portion sizes are smaller and meat is considered an accompaniment rather than the main course. A “typical” Ecuadorian meal will include, in some form or another…

  1. Soup: Usually either a creamed soup or a light broth. Small bowls of popcorn, croutons or corn nuts may be provided as a garnish (I know—popcorn in soup? But once you try it you’ll love it forever. My grown children still want to know where the popcorn is when they have soup!). Avocado is another popular garnish.
  2. “Plato fuerte” or “hot plate”: This is your main meal. It will consist of rice (white rice—very few places serve anything other than white rice, and most Ecuadorians will not eat brown rice if it is offered to them anyway), a meat, a potato (Ecuadorian meals are very carb-heavy, so potatoes, rice and corn in the same meal is very common) and usually a salad of some sort. This can be a lettuce leaf with a slice of tomato and a slice of onion on it, or a mayonnaise-based salad of different vegetables. It’s important to note that salad dressings aren’t popular there—most salads will come with the dressing already on them, usually a vinaigrette of some sort.
  3. “Jugo” or “Juice”: Ecuador is home to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and their juices are absolutely wonderful. Think beyond the typical “apple, orange and grape” and try watermelon, cantaloupe, guanabana (sour-sop), pear, strawberry…the list goes on. There are few fruits that cannot be made into a delicious juice, and for the true Ecuadorian culinary treat you should try as many as possible!
  4. “Postre” or “Dessert”: This is usually a small cookie, a piece of fruit or a small piece of cake—two or three bites at most.

*It is important to note that while Ecuadorian cuisine is wonderful, you should be careful what you eat and, more importantly, where you eat it. We never ate anything off of the street (although you’ll want to—it smells heavenly), and were careful about the restaurants that we visited. Be especially careful with salads and juices. If you are not sure, it’s best to skip them as you can get very sick very quickly from eating food that has not been prepared with clean water/utensils. 

Places to visit  

You’ll no doubt have the usual tourist attractions on your list, but there a few “off the beaten path” places that are delightful to visit as well.

  1. Yaku Water Park Museum: This is a fun, interactive and educational way to spend an afternoon, especially if you have children. Learn about the importance of water conservation, play in the “bubble room,” run through the sprinklers…it’s a fantastic place to visit, and is not usually crowded, especially on weekdays.
  2. Parque Metropolitano: Located on the west side of the city, Parque Metropolitano is a huge park where you can hike, ride bikes and picnic. You’ll most likely run across wild horses and llamas wandering around, as they are protected and run free here.

Places to volunteer  

If you are looking for a way to volunteer while you are in Quito, there are several organizations that use volunteer help. Be sure to contact them ahead of time to ensure that there is programming happening during the time that you plan to be there.

  1. Pan de Vida: Pan de Vida is an organization that provides a hot meal twice a week for their more than 1000 beneficiaries, as well as tutoring classes, homework help, sewing classes and other life-skills designed to help lift people out of poverty and help them to better their circumstances. Volunteer opportunities are suitable for families.
  2. Extreme Response International: Extreme Response provides life-skills training, counseling and other services to the most marginalized people in Quito—those who work in the city trash dump. Volunteer opportunities include spending time in the day care that cares for the children of the dump workers, helping with various construction projects and, if you happen to be there during the first week of December, helping with their giant annual Christmas outreach. Volunteer opportunities are suitable for ages eight and up.

Living in Quito was an experience that changed my life in so many ways. Although we have since returned to the US, I find myself daydreaming about our life there and wondering if we will ever find occasion to return, even for a visit.  Until then…Ciao, lindo Quito de mi vida!

Also check out Cusco, Peru.

Cynthia Maloy

Cynthia Maloy

Cynthia Maloy spent 12 years living overseas in Quito, Ecuador and now lives in Indiana with her husband, four kids, assorted attachments and one beautiful granddaughter. When she's not taking pictures of the grandbaby, she loves to write, read, collect words and blog over at www.lemonsandpearls.com.

1 Comment

  • Erika
    Erika

    Thank you for sharing your tips with us!

    May 17, 2017 at 10:24 pm
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