Quito, Ecuador has a terrible security reputation and the question, “is Quito dangerous”, is one I’ve been asked often. Many travelers, even experienced ones, are hesitant to visit the South American city due to security concerns – but just how dangerous is Quito?
High Crime Rate
Qutio has an exceptionally high crime rate, even when compared to other big South American cities. The most common crime against tourists is pickpocketing, either by quick hands or intimidation. The use of knives is becoming more frequent in muggings but violence is usually rare if you’re compliant. Despite the statistics and the State Department warnings, walking the streets of Quito isn’t a terrifying experience.
Know Your Limits
According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), in Quito crime occurs at all hours, but much of that depends on where in the city you are. The tourist and backpacker areas of Plaza Foch, Parque Itchimbia, Cumbaya, and La Ronda are safe both day and night due to a (very) heavy police presence in the area. You’ll be free to walk around these areas, even at night, and will clearly see where the police protection ends. By sticking to those areas, especially at night, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
- Although the area around the apartment I was staying at looked very quiet, I was told not to walk around much after dark. At night you shouldn’t assume a street is safe, even if right next to a populated area.
- When in the Old Town, stick to the square and the well lit side streets (they will be obvious). There is a heavy police presence here and while you’re likely to see beggars and prostitutes, will be relatively safe walking around.
- OSAC statistics show that traveling in groups of 2 or more significantly reduce your chance of being a victim of crime in Quito.
Despite this, getting around in the city by taxi is relatively uneventful. You can drive around most places at night very cheaply and it’s a good alternative to walking if you aren’t sure where you’re going. It is still a good idea to keep your electronics and jewelry out of sight just in case.
Quito Common Sense
In Quito you never walk around with more money in your pocket then you’re willing to have stolen. You shouldn’t stroll around chatting on your cell phone either – both the distraction and the phone make you an enticing target. It’s also standard practice to keep your electronics out of sight at all times.
- That said, walking around most parts of Quito during the day isn’t scary.
- Stay within the main streets at night and if you’re unsure of a route by foot, take a cab to be on the safe side.
- Never walk in any of the parks at night.
- The police response to crime reports is minimal and street criminals are rarely apprehended so don’t expect much if you have to file a report.
Practice common sense, like keeping an eye on your belongings and being aware of your surroundings and in most of the city during the day you should be fine to walk around. At night, most of the areas around hotels and hostels have a heavy police presence and the streets with security are very brightly lit up relative to anywhere else.
Not Too Dangerous To Visit
I may have made Quito sound like a scary place for some of you but it’s not. With all of the warnings I had heard about it I was expecting a much more chaotic scene as opposed to the normalcy I encountered. By using the advice above and sticking to the right streets at night you’re much less likely to face trouble, especially in the major touristic areas. Avoiding the city completely and missing places like the Mitad del Mundo and the other heights of Quito would be robbing yourself out of the food, culture, and beauty that is Quito.