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PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Ecuador is US$s.
I paid US$10 / night for a room with a Double Bed, Cable TV, and Hot Water Ensuite. But, it was not in the ‘Historical Centre’ (as they advertise) … it was in a ‘slightly rough’ area of town where, ideally, you needed to be back home by 8pm (or, at least, have a taxi take you to the hotel door). When I return to Quito, I will stay in another area of town.
It was time to move on … my next stop was Banos .
Getting from my Hostal to Quitumbe was easy. I walked 50 metres from my Hostal to the Banco Central Trolebus bus stop and jumped on bus C4 ($0.25c). This took me all the way (10-12kms) to the Quitumbe Bus Terminal. Quitumbe is new and modern.
There are several bus companies that service the Quitumbe to Banos route. Internet research suggested that Transportes Banos was the best followed by Expreso Banos and Touris San Fransisco Oriental. A bus from one of these companies leaves for Banos every 30 minutes during the day.
Many blogs comment on the number of scams, bag-slashings, and thefts happening on these buses (especially with carry-on luggage). You are advised to:
- Not talk to anyone being overly friendly in the bus terminal (as they are, probably, SCAMmers)
- Only deal with the bus driver when loading your stowed luggage
- Ask the driver to give you a receipt for each item of luggage stowed
- Always keep your carry-on luggage on your lap
- Never put your carry-on luggage overhead / on the floor / between your legs / under your seat … other passengers (and, sometimes, small children) have been known to crawl under the seat from behind you and get / slash into your bags
- Be wary when people get on and off the bus (bag snatchers)
I can only assume that there is a lot of plagiarism on the internet. Someone had a bad experience and everyone else has been copying that bad experience into their blogs.
True (as always) be careful of scams in the terminal, deal with the bus driver for stowing luggage, get a receipt for stowed luggage, and be wary of your carry-on items when other people get on and off the bus. When travelling in these countries, these are standard defensive actions.
However, the seats (on my bus) had no gap under them – it would have been impossible for even the smallest child to get underneath to slash my bag. Only small items could be put overhead. There was a security camera installed at the front keeping an eye on everyone. With standard precautions taken, you and your luggage should be perfectly safe.
We arrived in the Banos Bus Terminal slightly early at 12:45pm.
Baños is a major tourist center. It is known as the “Gateway to the Amazon”, as it is the last city still located in the mountains before reaching the jungle (and other towns that are located in the Amazon River basin).
Baños is located on the northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano which, frequently, has powerful ash explosions and lava flows. In October 1999, all 17,000+ residents were forced to evacuate the city for weeks.
Baños is named after the hot springs located around the city which have a reputation of having healing properties due to their various mineral content.
The city is also a Roman Catholic religious centre and it is said that the Virgin Mary appeared at a nearby waterfall. So, a sculpture of the virgin, called Virgen de Agua Santa, was placed in the cathedral.
And he typical side streets. They are nothing special during the day but they improve at dusk as the night-life starts.
The further away you get from the centre, the more untidy it gets.
WHERE TO STAY:
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night in early August 2018 (‘Rainy Season’) …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 12% to the displayed price to get the final price. Also, some of the cheaper rooms on Agoda have a Shared Bathroom (on Agoda, you cannot filter for Private Bathrooms) … so, check the details first.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … Please Note: these prices are in US$s …
PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%). Also, watch out for the ‘Cleaning Fee’ as some places charge more than 1 day’s rent!
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.
There are many GRANDPAcking options to choose from.
In fact, there are so many accommodation options around town it is ridiculous … there seems to be an Hostel / Hotel every 10 metres. I doubt that all of them are on the internet. Budget travellers can arrive without a booking and take a chance (but this may be a bit risky at weekends). It is possible to get a room with Double Bed, Hot Water Ensuite, Wifi, and Breakfast for US$10 / night (over 1km from the centre).
Have a look yourself:
WHERE TO STAY:
Most of the tourist bars are on Eloy Alfaro Street.
I booked at the last minute and got a Double Room (single occupancy) at the Hostal Maria Jose for US$15 / night (discounted down from US$20 / night). It was 1.5 blocks down the main street into town from the Bus Terminal.
The Free WiFi was almost useless. It was only usable late in the evening.
INTERNET / WIFI:
I bought a Claro SIMcard and Postpaid Package at Quito Airport. The SIMcard was US$1.80 and the 1 month ‘Conexion 15’ plan was US$15. It included 2GB of data, unlimited texts, 13 minutes of International calls (in the Americas), and 120 minutes of local calls.
I had an H+ signal most of the time that improved to 3G in some places around town.
You can walk everywhere around town.
There are many restaurants to choose from.
In the Mercado you find a selection of stalls selling various cheap meals in the US$2.50-US$5.00 price range. The Mercado starts packing up at 5pm and closes at 6pm. As always, the Almuerzo (Lunch) set meal is the best value for money: a soup starter, a rice-based main, and a glass of fruit juice for US$2.50. Pay a little bit more for something fancier:
However, ‘cheap eats’ are not just limited to the Mercado. You will find many local cafes around town doing the same Breakfasts and Lunches for only US$0.25c-US$0.50c more.
Around the Bus Terminal (as usual) you will find more cheap eateries. A reasonable Hamburger costs US$2.50 (add US$0.50c if you want French Fries).
They had a good selection of wines too. 🙂
Expect to pay an average of US$2.75 for a cheap local Breakfast with coffee.
Expect to pay an average of US$2.75 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of US$7.50 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.
MY ADVICE: You may get a simple Breakfast with coffee included in your hotel price but your room price is likely to be US$5 higher as a result … you are better off getting a cheaper hotel and buying a cheap Breakfast in your favourite local cafes. Follow that up with a mid-afternoon US$2.75 set menu Almuerzo … and, you can keep your main cost (Dinner) down to a minimum.
The normal price for a small 330ml local beer (western bars) is US$3. Alas, I couldn’t find any ‘local’ bars anywhere … the climate is too cold and unpredictable for Banos to have the Cafe-Minimart type bars that you find in (say, Rodadero) Colombia.
In some of the more rustic central bars, you can get a 1 pint bottle of beer for US$2.50-US$3.00.
In a side-street Convenience Store, you can buy a 1 litre local beer for US$2.25 (with no deposit on the bottle).
There are very few Happy Hours around town. You find a couple on Eloy Alfaro Street.
Happy Hours are, usually, 2-for-1 Cocktails in the US$6-US$8 price range.
I found 2 exceptions:
- The Leprechaun Pub: 3 draft beers for US$8
- A bar 30 metres from the Leprechaun: 1 pint of standard Brahva for US$3
Drinking in the Tourist Bars around Banos is expensive.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There is a Supermarket next to the Mercado. I didn’t buy much, so I can’t give you many typical prices. But, I did buy a cheap bottle of Red Wine for US$6 and 250ml of Shower Gel for US$4.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
I took out US$500 from a Banco Guayaquil ATM and was charged US$1.50 for the privilege. Most other banks limit you to US$300 and charge US$3.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in the Americas. Don’t leave anything unattended. Lock up your hotel room. Lock up your valuables within your hotel room (single lock hotel room doors are notoriously easy to break into without a key).
I didn’t notice any mosquitoes.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
Banos gets busy in July through September (the main European holiday period).
- Temperatures don’t vary much throughout the year.
- To avoid the rain, visit during the months of October through March.
- Visit Baños on a weekday to avoid the weekender crowds.
- It can rain a lot during May through September – and the most during June, July and August.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
There are plenty of tours available including a 5 hour White Water Rafting trip for only US$30.
Termas El Salado:
A taxi from town centre to the Termas El Salado hot spring baths costs US$1.50. It is compulsory to wear a swimming cap (you can buy them for US$0.75c if you don’t have one). However, we did not enter as the place was crowded and, to be honest, the waters looked dirty. I do not know the Entry Fee.
La Casa del Arbor:
The Tour Operators want to charge US$3.50. You can do it yourself for US$2. Catch a bus from outside of Panaderia La Delicia Don Gato. They leave on the hour during the day. It is US$1 to La Casa del Arbor. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Entry to the swing is US$1. The bus back to town leaves hourly on the hour for another US$1.
But, we did manage to find the end of a rainbow.
Hill Walk Across The Bridge:
From there, you get some nice views.
From Banos, I head to the edge of the Amazon: Tena. I will tell you more about that in my next post.
GRANDPAckers CAN afford to LIVE in Boquete to GRANDPAcking standard … but, only just.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
MY ACTUAL COSTS:
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I lived in Banos to GRANDPAcking standard.
I spent 4 nights at US$15 / night in a small Double Room with Hot Water Ensuite.
The Hostal wifi was so bad that I spent US$10 on another 10Gb of data for my Claro Mobile Plan.
My Hostal Room included a simple Breakfast.
I averaged US$4.50c / day on Lunches – I don’t eat Lunch anymore so, this was mainly for nice coffees or hot chocolates.
I averaged about US$6.00 / day on Dinners – I ate cheaply for 3 nights and ‘fancy’ for 1 night.
Drinking water was free at my Hostal.
My COE worked out to be about US$22 / day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me US$4.75 to get from my Quito Hostal to my Banos Hostal.
Living Costs: I averaged about US$6.75 / day on beers. I partied up one night for US$25. I spent US$11 on personal items and replacement equipment. I spent US$4 on getting to a couple of the tourist sites. I gifted US$10.
My total COL was about US$39 / day.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down in Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE:
Accommodation: Book yourself into something for the first 2 nights at about US$20 / night excluding Breakfast. Anywhere will do. Once here, ask around. You should be able to get this down to US$15 for something nice long term.
Transport: You can walk everywhere around town. I include a weekly public transport return day / shopping trip for 2 people to a nearby town (e.g. Abarto).
Communications & Fees: I include a Claro Tourist SIMcard: 1 Month Data, 4GB Data, Unlimited Texts, 120 Local Talk Minutes, 13 Intl America Talk Minutes.
Food & Beverages: Your budget is US$26.50 / day. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants.
Your COE is US$42 / day (80% of your total budget).
COST OF LIVING:
This leaves you very little ($10 / day) to LIVE on. You will need to deviate from GRANDPAcking Standard if you want to have enough spending money to have more fun (e.g. find an Hostal with a Kitchenette and eat some meals at home).
THE GRANDPAcking ACID TEST: Can a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? YES.
Banos has a small expat community … most of whom are here to run small businesses (like Tourist restaurants and bars).
I met an Argentinian who lived in an ‘average’ 1 bedroom apartment about a 15 minute walk from the centre; he paid US$130 / month inclusive of all services and electric. US$400 should get you a nice, 2 Bedroom, GRANDPAcking Standard accommodation.
Your biggest opportunity to save costs is in your meals. The $26.50 / day cost to eat in cheap restaurants can be reduced dramatically by buying local groceries, fruit, and vegetables. You can easily get this down to less than $15 / day. But, this is not GRANDPAcking ‘standard’.
Banos is definitely a good Holiday destination. I am unsure about it being a good Retirement location.