Here are some of the best ways to live like an Ecuadorian, even if you’re only going to visit for a short time.
Live Like a Local in Quito
The capital city has lots of fascinating historical and cultural attractions. However, if you want to experience it like a local, you can also enjoy some of the everyday pleasures of the city.
Rent an apartment
One of the benefits of visiting Ecuador is that it’s quite reasonable. While there are some luxury hotels, you can find cheap apartment rentals by the day, week, or month. This gives you a chance to live in a residential area and experience local life for a while.
Explore the city by bus, bike, or on foot
This is how most people get around in Ecuador. It can be fun to discover new neighborhoods off the beaten path. Cities such as Quito and Cuenca have a cheap bus service with bus lanes making transportation quite efficient. Quito is extremely bicycle-friendly, with many streets closed to car traffic on Sundays.
Enjoy the parks
One of the nice things about Quito is that it’s full of green spaces right inside the city. For example, Parque El Ejido is known for its spontaneous volleyball and soccer games as well as weekend art shows. The city’s locals take advantage of the parks and you can as well.
Experience nightlife of Plaza Foch
This is a busy area where you’ll find lots of cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Locals enjoy this area for late night fun and partying.
Brush Up on Your Spanish
If you want to live like locals and mix with them, you need to speak their language. If you’re already fluent in Spanish, you have this covered.
If not, this is the perfect opportunity to do some studying. There are quite a few tools to help you. If you don’t have time to take formal classes, you can get a language learning app for your computer, tablet or phone. Don’t worry about speaking perfectly. People will appreciate your effort if you address them with the Spanish phrases you’ve mastered.
Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world so learning it will serve you even beyond your trip to Ecuador.
Sample Local Markets and Street Food
Locals don’t usually dine in restaurants every day. They shop at supermarkets and local markets. Ecuador has an extraordinarily rich tradition when it comes to markets. You can find all kinds of delicacies such as vegetables, fruits, meats, and sweets. There are lots of bustling open-air markets where you can find both familiar and exotic items. There are also street foods you can buy from vendors for a quick meal. Here are just a few of the foods you should try while in Ecuador.
Empanadas – These are South America’s version of the wrap that’s filled with meat, vegetables, and all kinds of spices. Ecuador has its own unique version of empanadas which are especially popular in Quito.
Llapingachos – This is a delicious potato omelet stuffed with foods such as cheese, eggs, salad, avocado, chorizo, and spices. This is a satisfying street food you can enjoy any time of day.
Churrasco – If you want a typical hearty Ecuadorian complete meal, order Churrasco (there’s also a Brazilian version which is slightly different). You’ll get a grilled steak served with eggs, rice, avocado, vegetables, and a spicy sauce.
Buy Food at Markets
Fruits – You can find a dazzling array of tropical fruits from street vendors and market stalls. You’ll recognize some of these fruits such as papaya, watermelon, coconut, and bananas. Some lesser known but equally delicious fruits include uvilla (a berry), pitahaya (related to dragon fruit), mora (a type of blackberry), chirimoya (similar to guava), and the tomato-like naranjilla.
Potatoes – Many Ecuadorian recipes use potatoes. Since the country grows more than 500 varieties, you might want to buy some at market and cook them yourself.
Meat – South Americans are big meat eaters. You’ll find all kinds of animals for sale at markets. Unlike what you’re used to in America, you’ll often see whole animals on display. You’ll see, for example, a whole pig head rather than pork that’s already been cut up for you. You can get extremely fresh meat in Ecuador but you may also have to overcome any squeamishness.
Fish – Seafood is another staple in Ecuador’s cuisine. You can find all kinds of fresh fish and other seafood on display at markets such as shrimp, clams, shark, mahi-mahi, corvina, and much more.
It’s nice to have some type of cooking capability where you’re staying so you can shop at local markets and prepare some of the fresh ingredients you find at markets. If not, you can still sample many amazing dishes from street vendors. Markets are also great for finding arts, crafts, gifts, and wearables. Otavalo Market is one of the country’s premier markets for traditional art.
Enjoy Festivals and Celebrations
There are countless festivals and holiday celebrations in Ecuador. Some of these are large and celebrated throughout the nation while others are more local. Carnival or Carnaval is the most festive time of year throughout Ecuador. No matter where you are in Ecuador, there will be a Carnaval with lots of colorful costumes, parades, performances, and all-around partying. Be warned that it’s common for kids (and even adults) to spray strangers with water and other liquids during Carnival season.
The Andes region has quite a few distinctive festivals. The largest of these is Mama Negra, which is celebrated in both September and November. During these celebrations, you’ll see long parades of costumed characters representing ancestors. This is a multicultural festival that recognizes a variety of traditions that have influenced Ecuador, including African, Incan, Spanish, and Mayan.
There are also many other religious and cultural festivals in Ecuador. Before your trip, make sure you check the calendar and find out what’s happening during your stay.
Become a Soccer Fan
Soccer, known as football (or Fútbol in Spanish) is one of the most popular national pastimes in Ecuador. If you want to blend in with the local culture, it helps if you learn a little about the teams and current rivalries. Of course, if you want to make friends, make sure you root for the right team! The best-ranked football teams in Ecuador right now are Barcelona SC, LDU de Quito, and Delfin SC.
During football season, games will be on display everywhere. A good way to pass a few hours is to sit in a restaurant or bar with a game going on. Ecuador has over 200 football clubs so it can be a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with the scene. However, soccer is a fairly easy game to follow. Even if you’re not up to date with all the rules and teams, you can follow games and cheer for the local team. You’ll find that the enthusiasm is contagious.
These are some of the best ways to experience Ecuador as the locals do. This doesn’t mean you should skip the popular tourist attractions. However, it’s also nice to learn about the traditional customs of the country and get insights into the culture and everyday life of its residents.