Travel to Quito
Quito, capital of Ecuador, owns the distinction of being the first city to ever be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1535, Quito sits on a high plateau in the Andes Mountains of South America. Many of the original structures here date back more than 500 years and remain largely intact, making Quito a charming tourist destination. However, the U.S. Department of State advises Americans traveling to Quito to use caution at all times. While generally safe, crime in this and other parts of Ecuador occurs at a relatively high rate, and several other issues might pose threats to those visiting the city.
According to the U.S. Department of State, petty theft is by far the most common problem facing American tourists in Quito, Ecuador. Fodor's Travel Guide recommends taking the same common-sense precautions that apply to any large city in a developing country, including traveling in groups when possible, avoiding travel after dark and leaving valuables in a secure place such as a hotel safe. Maintaining a low profile is the best way stay out of harm's way. Flashy jewelry, laptops and cameras can attract unwanted attention. Also be discreet when withdrawing cash from ATM machines. The U.S. Department of State warns against hiking the isolated trail to the summit of the Pichincha Volcano in Quito, since this popular trail has been the site of numerous crimes in recent years. Fodor's also advises travelers to use extra caution in the streets of south Quito, Panecillo in the Old City, and in the New City's La Mariscal district. Taxis are the safest way to get around town, but the U.S. Department of State recommends using only radio-operated taxi companies with official permits. Hotel or embassy staff can help you call a licensed taxi and supply you with the number of a trustworthy service provider to call in the future. Unlicensed taxi operators sometimes work with other accomplices to rob unsuspecting passengers, so it's best to take this precaution to ensure safe transportation.
The U.S. Department of State cites political demonstrations as another potential risk for Americans in Quito. Protests take place frequently throughout Ecuador, and the capital city of Quito is no exception. Demonstrators might band together to block city streets, burn tires and engage in the destruction of property. Police often respond with force, so it's important to stay clear of any zones where volatile protests appear to be taking place. It's also a good idea to carry identification proving your U.S. citizenship. Due to the high rates of theft in Ecuador, the U.S. Department of State recommends carrying only a copy of your passport and leaving the official document in a secure place.
Extreme crimes are also an issue in Ecuador and throughout South America. The U.S. Department of State has documented multiple incidents of rape, shootings and kidnappings involving American citizens in Quito as recently as 2009. The Ecuadorian government has increased efforts to deter criminal activity, but travelers should still exercise caution and common sense to avoid hassles and dangerous situations.
Food and Water
Just as in any other developing country, food and water can lead to health complications for Americans traveling in Ecuador. Different bacteria and microbes might cause upset stomach and fever, among other illnesses. Drink only bottled water and avoid eating food prepared by vendors on the street to minimize your chances of getting sick.
At 9, 300 feet above sea level, Quito is one of the highest capital cities on the planet. The air here is much thinner than most Americans are accustomed to, and this can bring on fits of altitude sickness. Common symptoms include nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Stay well-hydrated and try to take it easy in terms of physical activity for the first day or two while allowing your body to acclimate.