When looking up things to do in Guayaquil, we often read that there was no point in coming here, and that it was dangerous for tourists. So when bus schedules forced us there a day before our Galápagos flight, we weren’t impressed. However, we found the city to be charming. It’s not somewhere where we would wander around drunk after dark but as long as you stay in the tourist areas we felt safe. The area along the river has been completely remodelled with lookouts, nice parks and restaurants, and ends in the famous colourful hillside neighbourhood of Las Peñas. It’s not a city you need to spend a few days in, but if you end up there with some time to kill like we did, enjoy exploring the sights instead of hiding in a hostel. The city is definitely on the rise in terms of being tourist friendly.
How to Get There
We took a bus straight from Mancora, Peru over the border to Guayaquil, Ecuador via the famous Peruvian tourist bus company, Cruz del Sur. It is known as the most luxurious and best company for tourists, and is also the most expensive. We tried out multiple bus companies, and you can check out our reviews here. We weren’t overly impressed with Cruz del Sur, and that impression started early when our bus was 2.5 hours late. It took about 3-3.5 hours to get to the Tumbes border crossing, after a short stop in Tumbes to pick up a few people and our now very late lunch. The border crossing was easy but did take a while. No paperwork or payment is needed, all you need is your passport. In the new building you enter, line up on the left to get stamped out of Peru, then line up again on the right the get stamped into Ecuador. The whole process took about an hour. Once we got back on the bus it took about 4 hours to get to the main bus station in Guayaquil. When you get off the bus and enter the bus station, simply walk straight through to the other side, then turn left when you exit to find taxis. It should cost no more than $5-$6 US to get from the bus station to anywhere in the center of town.
Travelling between Guayaquil and Montanita is also common and pretty easy, once you know how to navigate the massive Guayaquil bus station. The station is a little intimidating, as it’s three floors and packed full of bus company windows, restaurants and pretty much any kind of store you can think of. On the top floor on the west side, you’ll find $6 USD express buses leaving to Montanita frequently. Your ticket allows you to scan and enter the bus boarding area through a turnstile. The bus left about 15 mins after the boarding time on our ticket, and took 3 hours to get to Montanita. Most hostels are very close to the bus station, no need for a taxi.
We also made the trip from Guayaquil to Banos. This was a frustrating trip, but that was mainly due to us unknowingly travelling on a major holiday long weekend. The bus cost $11 USD on El Dorado, and the trip took 7 hours 15 minutes. El Dorado wasn’t a great bus, there was almost no leg room and only Spanish movies without subtitles. The Banos bus companies are found on the bottom floor on the south side, in the booths marked in the 70s. It definitely took longer than normal because of the holiday traffic, but expect it to take at least six hours. You’ll end up pretty high up in the mountains, and have a quick stop in Ambato, before ending up in Banos. Make sure to clarify if you need to switch buses in Ambato when you buy a ticket, as some companies do. Also make sure to follow the gate number, not the section number when finding your bus, and arrive early as our bus left 5 mins before the boarding time listed on our ticket.
Finally, every flight to the Galápagos Islands goes through Guayaquil. The domestic airport is close to the bus station, so it’s a $5-$6 USD taxi ride. Check out our Galápagos overview for more details on flying there.
Where to Stay
- Hostal Suites Madrid – There isn’t a ton of cheap backpacker friendly accommodation options in Guayaquil due to a lack of tourism, but Hostal Suites Madrid was a fine place to stay. A private double room with a private bathroom with a hot shower, and AC was $35 USD. We recommend that you opt for a room on the inside away from windows if you have the choice, because the windows aren’t very soundproof and there seemed to be a consistent stream of very loud trucks going by the hostel all night. The best part was the nice rooftop terrance with a kitchen and computers to use. You can book online here.
What to Do
- Malecon 2000 – The area along the west side of the Rio Guayas was redone 20 years ago, and offers a really nice area to explore. There’s a shopping mall, lookouts, botanical garden, restaurants, movie theatre and a giant ferris wheel to check out. It’s a nice area to see, and leads you north to our next attraction, the barrio of Las Peñas.
- Las Peñas – This colourful neighbourhood is the main tourist attraction in Guayaquil. Make your way up the 444 steps to the blue and white striped lighthouse at the top for a great view of the city. There are a bunch of fun looking bars and restaurants dotted throughout Las Peñas, but most don’t open until 4pm.
- Parque Seminario – This is a unique gated park in the middle of the city, where hundreds of iguanas roam free! City workers feed the reptiles to keep them there, and they seem to enjoy their little paradise in the middle of the big city. Definitely one of the more bizarre parks we encountered in our trip.