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PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Ecuador is US$s.
It was time to move on to the edge of the Amazon: Tena.
I was given no receipt for my stowed luggage. We left 15 minutes late at 10:30am. The seating on the Sangay was not as good as the seating on the Touris San Francisco Oriental bus that I used to get from Quito to Banos. You had less leg room. The toilets were locked and unavailable for the whole trip. They didn’t play any movies.
Just before arriving in Puyo, the ticket collector checked and marked my ticket. We arrived on the outskirts of Puyo at 11:50am and stopped at the side of the road for 25 minutes. There was no toilet there either.
Between Puyo and Tena the bus became ‘Indirect’. They stopped for anyone that flagged them down and dropped them off where-ever they wanted … all of whom paid the driver in cash. We arrived in Tena at 1:45pm.
SCAMS & SECURITY:
5 minutes before arriving in Tena, the young ticket collector tried to scam me. He came to check my ticket again. This time he said that my ticket was ‘invalid’ and implied that I had another fare to pay. He got very short shrift from me (in Spanish) with my most ferocious ‘evil eye’: “My ticket is from Banos to Tena. I have paid for my ticket. Finished!“. He backed off very quickly.
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)
This is good advice. When travelling in these countries, these are standard defensive actions.
However, some bus companies are better than others. I would suggest that you need to be more vigilant if:
- You do not get a receipt for your stowed luggage (as this means that they are not taking responsibility for the safety of your goods)
- The seating is more ‘cramped’ (suggesting that they are more of a ‘budget’ carrier)
Tena, the capital of the Napo Province, is a city in the Amazon rainforest.
Tena is a popular launching point for jungle, kayaking and rafting tours in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest region. The entry to the city is marked by a statue of the indigenous hero Jumandy, who led an uprising against the Spanish colonizers in 1578 and was subsequently executed.
The town is popular with tourists. Many inexpensive hotels, tourist agencies, and restaurants cater to backpackers who commonly use the town as a jumping-off point for trips into the rainforest. Tena is located at the edge of the Andes, which are visible to the west.
WHERE TO STAY:
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night in early August 2018:
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
I have stopped providing Agoda listings. They more often than not (now) just refer you back to BOOKING.COM listings … and Agoda doesn’t allow you to filter for rooms with a Private Bathroom.
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.
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 …
I have stopped listing Tripadvisor Vacation Rentals. TripAdvisor rarely have anything within GRANDPAcker price range.
PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES and 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 several GRANDPAcking options to choose from.
Have a look yourself:
WHERE TO STAY:
If you are here to use Tena as a springboard to getting out and about every day to the nearby attractions, you may be better off locating yourself in the south of town near to the Terminal Terrestre de Tena (Main Bus Terminal) and the nearby Cooperativa de Transportes (Jumandy Bus Terminal). The downside of being in this area is that there are few nice restaurants and bars – you have to go ‘local’.
If you want more nightlife and a selection of nice restaurants and bars, you may be better off in the north of town close to the Amusement Park.
I enjoy going out every evening but I was not here for the ‘nightlife’. So, I booked a Double Room (single occupancy) at the Hostal Laurita for US$10 / night. It is located opposite the main Bus Terminal.
The Free WiFi was good most of the time and good enough in the evenings to stream video.
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. My hotel wifi in Banos was so bad that I topped it up with another US$10 and bought 10GBs of extra data. This was still active in Tena.
I had an H / H+ signal most of the time that improved to 3G in some places around town.
Small yellow truck-taxis are abundant in the city.
Most roads in ‘the Oriente (the East / Amazon area)’ are unpaved and subject to landslides and other delays, especially during the rainy season. The road from Quito to Tena, however, is fully paved as of 2012, and it includes a spectacular passage over Papallacta Pass (above 4,000 metres elevation). There is regular bus service over this road to Tena via Baeza.
Alternatively, it is easy to cross the Andes from Riobamba / Ambato / anos in the south and get to Tena via Puyo.
There are many restaurants to choose from.
There are several options in and around the main Bus Terminal. But, you will find little local cafes everywhere.
1-2 blocks south west of the main Bus Terminal you will find the Mercado (indoor market). These places usually close by 6pm. Here you will find many food stalls selling cheap meals.
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$6.00 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.
MY ADVICE: Make good use of the US$2.75 set menu Almuerzos … and, then, you can keep your main cost (Dinner) down to a minimum.
The normal price for a small 330ml local beer in a local cafe is US$1-1.25c. A 1 pint bottle is US$1.50-1.75c. A 1 litre is a little as US$2.
I stayed around the main Bus Terminal. There are no ‘western’ bars in this area.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
You are paying proper, Ecuadorian prices.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There are several banks and ATMs around town. There is no Bureau De Change.
The Banco Guayaquil ATM usually allows you to withdraw US$500 for a US$1.50 fee. Most other banks limit you to US$300 and charge US$3.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
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 but bring repellent if you plan to go into the jungle.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
There is rainfall all-year-round, with an annual average of 171.65 inches (4,359.91 mm) of rain. The heaviest rains come in April, May, June, and July.
I arrived in the latter half of July (thinking that I would be OK). I wasn’t. We had heavy rain storms each night that carried on into mid morning. This makes day trips into the jungle (for GRANDPAckers) a bit unpleasant. I would advise ‘older / less hardy folk’ to come in Dry Season.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
The main Bus Terminal connects you with the long distance destinations.
I took a day trip to Puerto Misahualli. Other than White Water Rafting, Kayaking, and River Tubing (e.g. the water sports where you are going to get wet anyway), the weather was too miserable to do anything other than sight-seeing trips to places like Misahualli and Laguna Azul. The Jumandy Caves may have been worth a trip (but may have been a bit wet and muddy).
From Tena, I head back to Ambato. I will tell you more about that in my next post.
I have not bothered to provide a detailed breakdown of my costs. I couldn’t really do anything … so, I worked a lot instead.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
I haven’t bothered providing a detailed breakdown of costs. GRANDPAckers are here to go on nature / Amazon tours and trips. Which ones you choose will determine your costs.
As a guide, the COE for 2 GRANDPAckers is about US$46 / day:
- Under US$23 for Double Room accommodation
- US$5.50 for 2 Breakfasts
- US$5.50 for 2 Lunches
- US$12.00 for 2 Dinners.
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.
BUT, Tena is really a Holiday destination … not a Retirement Location.
For the best experience, come during the Dry Season (November through February).