Brittany: Getting around in Quito

October 1, 2010


I like to walk home after school with friends, but I ride the bus to school every day.  It is .25 cents a ride (no matter where you go), which you give to a certain person on the bus rather than a machine. In the city, buses whirl by at ridiculous speeds. They only stop if you flag them down, and sometimes—unless you specifically tell the driver—they don’t come to a complete stop to let you off. They just slow slightly and people hop out the open door.

Buses that travel longer distances are even crazier. I was seriously contemplating the possibility that I would not survive the trip from Otavalo to Quito. We hopped on and quickly realized there were not enough seats. Francisco and Sam started heading to the back to stand, but the driver stopped me, saying, “Chica, aquí.” For the first twenty minutes of the drive I sat in the long bench seat in the front of the bus with the driver! AND he left the door open! The money collector would literally hang out the door, yelling the destination of the bus as we sped toward people waiting along the road ahead.

The thing I really couldn’t deal with was the passing on winding, two-lane roads through the mountains. At one point we were driving in the middle of the road on the line with a car on either side of us! Finally there was a seat by my friends and I was able to move to the back… At least that way I wasn’t going to see my death coming.

We use taxis to get home after dark or with my family because they don’t own a car. They are a cheap way to get around—if we go out it is usually only a dollar per person. You have to be careful, however. There are a lot illegal (unregistered) taxis that have stared partaking in this crime trend called secuestro express. In this crime, a driver kidnaps the passenger for an hour or two, long enough to max your debit/credit card, and then they let you go. Unfortunately, it is a crime that is popping up around Latin America. There are ways to avoid it, of course, including only getting in registered cabs and always traveling in groups.

I hope this post doesn’t freak out anyone! Crime is of course an issue in such a big city, but most of it is nonviolent. The reality is that unemployment is high here and people have been driven into petty crime out of economic desperation. But our program is very serious about safety and I use my common sense!

–Brittany Libra


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