A little really does go a long way in Quito. Since arriving a few weeks ago, I’ve been amazed at the amount of things I can purchase for just one dollar. I can drink a beer at a pub, buy a DVD, or even feast on 20 bananas—if I could eat them all before they turn brown. There is so much to do in Quito that my dollars are flying fast! Here is the run-through of some things you can buy and do in Quito for under a buck.
Start your day with a cup of coffee—or four. Most places will give you your caffeine fix for 25 to 35 cents a cup. Just be prepared to receive a cup of hot water and a jar of instant coffee, as is the norm around these parts. If only espresso will do, you’ll have to pay up. Still, you’ll get you buzz for less than the smallest latte at Starbucks.
A refreshing alternative to coffee—that is still just a buck—is a large cup of juice. Many fruterias, or fruit shops, allow you to choose any mix of fruits of vegetables you fancy, and then squeeze your drink right before your eyes. No sugar or water added! Soda or bottled water is also sold at a reasonable price: 30 to 60 cents depending on the size of the bottle.
Transportation in Ecuador is cheap. A taxi will take you up to a mile for just a dollar, or you can hop on a city bus for a mere 25 cents. Just be warned: you really do have to hop on and off the buses, which seem to never come to a complete stop when picking up or dropping off passengers.
As for entertainment, a dollar can buy you a few things. Pop into one of Quito’s many knock-off DVD or CD stores and you’ll find just about any title for a dollar (sometimes a bit more). Shopping at the Mercado Artesanal is another option, where you can pick up handmade bracelets, earrings, or other small items such as coin purses or finger puppets for a dollar or less. However, there are so many beautiful homespun souvenirs for sale it would be hard to leave without buying an alpaca blanket or a panama hat. People watching at Parque la Carolina or Parque Ecológico Metropolitano are two other completely free options, but it would be hard to bypass indulging in an ice cream cone or fresh fruit cup from a vendor for just a dollar.
Your dollar dinner options are a little scant, but you do have some choices. A slice of pizza or foot-long hot dog are two familiar menu items, but the latter is served with some unfamiliar toppings: sometimes mayonnaise, sometimes tomatoes, sometimes crushed potato chips. If you want to try something a little more Ecuadorian, grab a “Choclo con Queso,” a corn on the cob served with a chunk of cheese. The snack is sold everywhere!
Drinking is cheap, too. A large bottle of beer is just a dollar at many pubs, and if you search hard enough you might be able to snag a cuba libre, rum and coke, or other mixed drink for the same price. Don’t leave without spending a buck on a “canelazo,” a traditional drink made with fruit juice and sugar cane alcohol, served hot. Also, if you like to smoke when you drink, pick up a half-pack of cigarettes (10 in a box) for just a dollar!
When you’re finally done, make a pit stop inside an internet cafe, where you can call most international numbers for a half hour for just a dollar. Just enough time to tell them how amazing (and cheap!) Quito is!