Be prepared to speak some basic Spanish in order to get along. Quito is an excellent city in which to learn Spanish before heading off to other places in South America. The Spanish spoken in Quito is very clear and it is spoken slowly as compared to coastal areas. There are many excellent Spanish schools where you can have private or group lessons very economically. These schools will also arrange homestay accommodation which is convenient, inexpensive and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture and try the local food.
Very few locals speak English except in the touristy areas of North Quito which includes "La Mariscal" quarter, where most tourist businesses are located. La Mariscal occupies several square blocks in North Quito and is the place to be if you wear a backpack. Bars, restaurants, hostels and internet cafes abound. Young people from many countries tend to congregate there.
Ecuador, especially the Sierra region that includes Quito, is culturally a very conservative society. This is reflected in manner of dress. People of all socio-economic backgrounds tend to dress up in Ecuador. For men, this means a pair of trousers and a button down shirt. For women, slacks or dresses are acceptable. Men and women seldom wear short pants in Quito, although in recent years casual clothes have become somewhat more accepted especially among the young and on very hot days. Some popular nightclubs and restaurants enforce a dress code. Lastly, remember that Quito is said to have "all four seasons in a day". Once the sun goes down it can get downright cold. Dressing in layers is a good idea.
The South American Explorers Club is a non profit organization dedicating to helping independent travelers in Ecuador and South America. Their office, at Jorge Washington 311 y Leonidas Plaza (in the Mariscal district of Quito right off of 6 de Diciembre) is a great place to stop by, meet people, and get the latest information on where to go, what to avoid, and on adventure travel. You can find out more about the services they offer on their website. There is an annual membership fee for this non profit organization.
The Quito Visitors' Bureau has several information centres around the city. These include at the International Arrivals terminal at the airport; the small Parque Gabriela Mistral, on Reina Victoria in the Mariscal quarter; the Banco Central Museum in the Mariscal District; and finally, in the Old Town, on the ground floor of the Palacio Municipal on one side of Plaza Grande - their main centre. This includes helpful staff, lockers for leaving bags, maps, leaflets and books for sale, a store of Ecuadorian crafts. This offices offers subsidised guided tours, with various routes available. The contacts for the main office are: (+593 2) 2570 - 786 / 2586 - 591, [email protected]
The Ministry of Tourism] has offices in their building on Avenida Eloy Alfaro and Carlos Tobar, close to the El Jardin shopping mall which cater to tourists. The Pichincha Chamber of Tourism (CAPTUR) is .
The Visitors' Bureau publishes a useful A3-size map with all the city's attractions. You can pick it up at their information offices. They also publish a number of pocket guides on various themes, including walking guides, a guide to the city's Viewpoints, a guide to the Mariscal, routes north, south and northwest. Their website has an interactive map; listings of hotels, restaurants, etc; videos, etc.