Quito on a student budget

We have summarized some great insights and tips in our Ultimate Ecuador Student Budget blog post in 2014. In this follow-up you will learn some additional ideas how to enjoy your trip and save money.

If you’re looking for a fun, budget friendly city to learn Spanish in then you’ve picked the right place. Quito is a great city for students to study Spanish, with the cost of living still relatively low in comparison with the US, Europe and even other parts of South America. To make the most of your time in Quito, here’s how to live in the city on a student budget.

Budget your living costs

To help you work out a monthly budget for yourself before you arrive (and ensure you have enough for beer money and travel)check out this useful site that breaks down the average costs for you.

Stick to the free and cheap activities

El San Francisco monastery Quito things to do There are lots of free things to do in Quito (read about some of them here) and even for the attractions where you do have to pay, the price isn’t going to break the bank. For starters, you have a World Heritage Site to explore on your doorstep and you can wander the Old Town of Quito for hours getting lost in the maze of old cobblestoned streets, stopping off in the plazas to hang out and soak up the local culture. If you need a hand getting your bearings and some historical context, join one of Quito’s free walking tours that run twice daily (advance reservation is recommended).

For only US$2, you can climb to the top of the neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional and get one of the best views of Quito and then pay US$1 to enter the church and marvel at all the shiny gold shrines (even if you’re not into churches, this one is impressive). One of Quito’s most beautiful buildings, the El San Francisco church and monastery, will also only set you back a few dollars to get in, where you might catch sight of a real-life monk or the odd green parrot. You can also make a date with the President of Ecuador for free and give him a wave every Monday morning at 11am when he comes out onto the balcony of the Presidential Palace in Plaza Grande to greet his subjects, followed by the soldiers’ parade.

Getting around on the cheap

taking the bus in Quito budget transport Photo credits: Bob, Flickr

Transport is cheap as chips in Quito so getting around the city and out to the surrounding areas won’t eat into your budget. A single bus journey is only 25 cents and you’ll never pay much more than US$3 or US$4 for a taxi ride within the city. You can also save money on ride shares and do Uber pool. Here are some tips for how to navigate the transport system in Quito.

Eat local vs. international

street food in Quito Photo credits: Mike, Flickr

Eating out in Quito is very affordable, providing you stick to the local haunts and traditional cuisine. Look out for the menu del día in restaurants that’ll get you a soup, a main meal (usually meat, rice and vegetables), salad, glass of juice and maybe a dessert for around US$2 to US$3 (especially at lunchtime which is the main meal for the Ecuadorians). You can find these places around the Mariscal area but steer clear of the touristy Plaza Foch itself. You can also eat cheap at the Mercado Central where a hearty locro soup and freshly squeezed juice is a couple of dollars. You might have to sit in a plastic chair and there won’t be much ambience but the food will be tasty and filling.

When a craving strikes for a taste of home, you can find a Subway sandwich or burger but expect to pay a little more. Western-style meals will cost around US$10. And for the times when you want to get a bit fancy, a meal at a mid-range restaurant costs around US$15 to US$20.

If you buy your groceries from the local market and stock up on staples like bread, chicken, fruit, vegetables and eggs, you’ll find you have money left over to spend on yummy Ecuadorian chocolate, which is considered some of the best in the world.

Take advantage of the happy hours

Quito's student nightlife Most of the farra (nightlife) in Quito is located around Mariscal Sucre. A few places around Plaza Foch have happy hours that start in the early evening so stock up on drinks for the evening during those. Popular bars such as Bungalow 6 and Dirty Sanchez also have different drinks promotions throughout the week. When it comes to beer, drink the local stuff over the imported brands such as Corona or Bud as it’s cheaper (as little as a dollar a bottle) and Ecuador has some great local beer.

Hang out in Parque Carolina

cool parks in Quito There’s always something going on in Parque Carolina, one of Quito’s biggest and nicest parks, from salsa classes, to running clubs to soccer games. It’s the perfect place to while away a Saturday afternoon people watching. Get a few friends together, bring stuff for a picnic, a set of speakers and find a nice grassy spot.

Got any other tips for how to enjoy Quito on a student budget? Share them with our readers in the comments section below.

Sophie Lloyd

Sophie Lloyd

I’m a British freelance writer and personal shopper currently living in Buenos Aires out of a love of Malbec and the Latino lifestyle. I enjoy travel and all things related to design.

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