Ecuador will blow away most of your preconceptions about traveling in South America. The people are friendly, public transportation is efficient, and the food is healthy and cheap. Tourism is a major industry in the country, and travelers are treated well.
Climbers and skiers who wish to tackle Ecuador's many volcanoes are advised to contact a tour agent or guide service. We used Horizons Nouveaux (phone: 026-31-62-68, fax: 026-31-34-34, e-mail: [email protected], address: P.O. Box 196 CH-1936 Verbier, Switzerland). The Switzerland-based company specializes in adventure travel in South America and has exceptional contacts in Ecuador and throughout the region.
Our group flew from Miami to Quito via the Ecuadorian airline Saeta (1-800-827-2382). We were delighted by their philosophy of "Premier Service," where everyone is treated as though they are flying first class. ("Yes, I will have another glass of wine, thank you!")
Options for staying in Quito vary. Most hostels or moderate hotels run $7 to $15 per person per night. A high-class joint will double that. If you feel like going big after roughing it, try the Hotel Quito (Av. Gonzalez Suares 2500, phone 543631). Even if you don't stay there, check out the views from the rooftop bar at night. Expect to pay $30 to $40 for dinner for four, including drinks.
For more information on climbing in the country, pick up a copy of Climbing and Hiking in Ecuador (Rachowiecki and Wagenhauser, Globe Pequot Press).