Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America. However, it packs in an amazing amount of diverse nature and culture into a nation only about the size of Great Britain or Colorado State. This means that getting around Ecuador is much easier than other South American countries (where you can easily spend 30 hours on a bus), and you don’t need to spend a fortune on domestic flights.
The Wanderbus option
The Wanderbus is a safe, flexible, and affordable alternative to public buses, other hop options, and private tours. We offer routes all around the country with the hop-on, hop-off concept, so you can decide where to stay and for how long, anywhere in the country.
The Wanderbus is safe and spacious, and includes an English-speaking guide throughout the journey–a perk that public buses definitely don’t have. Plus, you can easily plan your trip in advance and we can guarantee that our schedules are consistent and reliable. All tours are during the day so you can feel safe and enjoy the beautiful scenery as well as all the included activities we have planned for you at unique stops along the way.
On the Wanderbus we promote environmental sustainability and social responsibility on our trips. When you travel with us we will give you your own reusable water bottle that you can use pretty much forever, so you don’t have to keep buying (and throwing away) single-use plastic bottles. We also work with local people all over Ecuador so when you travel with us you’re also helping the communities and families that you visit, while also getting a more authentic experience.
The Wanderbus is safer than public transport, has more activities than other hop options, and is so much cheaper than tour operators.
Public bus option
Getting around Ecuador by bus is extremely affordable, but there are obviously some safety, flexibility, and connectivity concerns and challenges.
Public buses are common and cheap, connecting the main cities and towns. But they do not offer easy ways (if any) to book online or provide much information for you to plan your trip easily. They also don’t have the best records when it comes to petty theft (foreigners are an unfortunate target), road accidents, and staying on schedule.
When considering visiting Ecuador’s most amazing destinations from a traveller’s perspective, public buses have severe limitations. For example, at the top of many people’s list of things to see are Cotopaxi Volcano and Quilotoa Crater Lake. Neither of these are easy to reach by public transport. In the case of Quilotoa, you will need to take about 5 buses and take at least 5 hours to get from your hostel in Quito to finally reach the actual lake (and that’s on a good day).
So, when planning to visit Cotopaxi National Park, Quilotoa Lake and get to the fun town of Baños, the journeys and costs look like this (with Wanderbus for comparison). Pretty stressful, right? And this is only one short section of the route: imagine trying to cross the whole country by public transport, or trying to reach off-the-beaten-track locations like Ozogoche or El Cajas National Park. And if you don’t speak Spanish, it’ll be impossible to communicate.
In reality, public transport is often a false economy: what you save on the cost of the ticket, you’ll spend more on taking taxis, spending the night at hostels mid-route, and booking required guides.
Other hop options
Other hop options provide a safe and fast way to travel only to Ecuador’s tourist cities; you’ll pay a lot more when compared to public transportation, but for almost the same service. Taking other hop options, you will zip through the mountains or the coast to your final destination.
You will have quick stops at easily-accessible tourist places where you’ll interact only with other tourists on your trip, skipping meeting the locals, learning about the culture, and seeing Ecuador’s hidden gems. Some trips are overnight so you’ll have to sleep on the bus (instead of in a nice comfy bed), and you’ll be missing out on beautiful parts of Ecuador just to get to your final destination, just like public transportation.
Here, activities are not included in the final price — for example, entrance and a tour of the actual Cotopaxi National Park, where you can get a true feel for this amazing volcano, is not included in your trip. So when you book with other hop options, it’s important to note that you’re only paying for the transportation, and you have to pay extra for simple tours, in destinations that are already part of tourist trails.
Tour operator options
There are dozens of very good operators in Ecuador offering all sorts of tours for everybody. You’ll find the majority in Quito, but many others in popular traveller destinations like Otavalo, Mindo, Baños, or Cuenca. They are particularly useful when you’re looking to do some adventurous activities from these ‘spring-board’ towns, like rafting, mountain biking, horse-back riding, trekking, or mountain climbing. You should always check on the operator’s credentials and online reputation before parting with your hard-earned cash or putting your safety in their hands!
In terms of actually getting around and exploring Ecuador, although some companies cover the same routes as the Wanderbus, they will always try to group travellers together on set departures in order to keep their costs down, while keeping the high prices you have to pay. It’s often hard to find a tour with departure dates that fit with your exact itinerary.
Also, many tour operators offering tours from Quito return to Quito, which isn’t great if you want to explore further. You’ll end up doing a day tour to Cotopaxi National Park, and another day tour to Quilotoa and another to Baños, etc. when you could connect these destinations in one go (and see more on your vacation) with the Wanderbus!
Multiple destinations and activities
If you want to ‘connect the dots’ to several destinations in Ecuador, and work in a tour to the Amazon or a day white-water rafting, for example, it gets increasingly difficult to find economical options that are part of a group departure. Instead of the tour operator being flexible, you’ll find you’re the one having to be flexible and make compromises with your dream travels to keep costs down. More often than not, you’ll be pushed towards a private tour, where costs can easily be as high as $200-250 per day, excluding meals and accommodation.
If you’re looking to travel to off-the-beaten-track locations while enjoying a full day of exploring new places, then Wanderbus is perfect for you. With us, our “Wanderers” get to experience many of Ecuador’s hidden gems and popular destinations, while learning more about the culture, engaging with local communities, and getting to know other travelers like yourself!
Choose the Wanderbus for the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to travel around all of Ecuador.