Close

Moving to Quito....freaking out about La Mariscal assaults

I'm moving to Quito with my husband. I'm worried about safety. Don't get me wrong--I grew up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic but I'm a bit out of practice with a third world country and I won't have a car. There's been about 580 assaults in La Mariscal and I don't care much for obvious drug activity. I've lived in the inner city the US before. I hate freaking out or spreading bad rumors about a country or living in fear. Just want to know how the females feel living there, what's the best neighborhood to live in Quito and general tips.

Thanks!

Hi, I'm new to this blog too. I have traveled around to a few third world countries and understand your concerns. My son is thinking of taking a teaching position in Quito, moving from the Philippines. We heard all the horror stories about the same thing regarding the Philippines before he left the states to go there. He has now been there 4 yrs, and we have spent many months ourselves in the Philippines traveling all about and had never really been put in any fear. There were those areas I would not frequent at odd hours or carry much money, and we would keep the car doors locked. Several of us spent time there and would go back at anytime. There are always areas that are off limits for the non local, even in the states. It's always a case or fear of the unknown. I'm not aware of the issue you are speaking about and would have concern too. Hopefully someone will chime in shortly and share any real concerns.

neweller,

I appreciate your comments. I know that we tend to focus on the bad and forget that with thousands of visitors, the numbers are not bad. I live in the DC area and a friend was shot driving through DC. We are working professionals and weren't looking for trouble. I literally mean just driving by. :( I have to remember that things happen everywhere and I hate when I see folks overreact to the things that happen in third world countries. Thanks again!

Hi, I live in Quito for three years now and love the city despite the safety issues. You have to be careful without a doubt and I also had to learn my lessons, but you don´t have to be freaking out, because it is not that bad. In fact I have seen a lot more safety guards in La Mariscal than last year and Quito oldtown has become a lot safer than it was some years ago. My advices are: 1) ALWAYS, no matter where you are in the city, take a taxi at night - it should be registered one, where you see a number in the front window. 2) Generally don´t take a lot of money with you when you are walking on the street. 3) If you have a strange feeling, trust your feeling...take another way or a taxi if somebody seems strange. 4) I always go on public buses and it´s great, but be aware of pickpockets, especially if you have a backpack with you. 5) Get cash at an ATM inside a shopping centre or supermarket, don´t use an ATM on the street. 6) Don´t listen to people on the street showing you papers and then asking you for help.
That´s it basically! Quito is a very beautiful city and you will certainly enjoy it. Don´t be afraid, just careful :-)

I am a single woman living in Quito for about two years now.  I have not had any problems on the street, although many of my friends have.  I think the person who responded last said it right, that you have to be careful and listen to your gut, but I feel like there is more to it.  I feel like the criminals who want to mug people on the street are looking for easy targets.  If you are walking around(and this is true for night or day)and you appear to be scared or nervous, you will be a target.  Confidence is key, not just a cliche.  My friends who have had problems were either walking scared or intoxicated.  Best to stay sober keeping your head up and shoulders back.  If you need to consult a map, do not do it on the street, duck into a tienda or restaurant. Watch your bags and pockets on the buses, the pick-pockets are super crafty. Try not to look like a tourist, with your camera around your neck, hiking boots and fanny pack.  This is a city, dress like you would in the city. 
Seriously, The crime in Quito is mostly petty crime.  Folks looking to score some extra cash quick and easy.  Keep your valuables at home and your wits about you and you will be fine.
I'd say Quito is far less dangerous than DC, I'm sorry about your friend :(

My taxi ride on Easter Sunday
I left the discotec, in the heart of the Mariscal clubs section, at 2 a.m. and took the first taxi that had stopped right in front of the discotec.
It was an official taxi painted yellow and black with official registration numbers on it.
He took me a short distance and then said for two dollars this is as far as you go, then
Boom like a bolt of lightning two men jumped in from both sides so fast I had no time to see them
Coming or see their faces. They put a plastic bag over my eyes and said I have a knive and if
You try to resist I will kill you. I felt a hard metal object pressing at my throat. I said I will not resist, just take everything. He hit me lightly with a blunt heavy metal object like a sledge hammer on the shoulder. Then the one on my right stuck his finger into my right eye and pressed hard saying if you resist me spraying pepper into your eyes Then I will gouge your eye out. He sprayed pepper onto my closed eyes but it still went right through
The lids to my eyes. It smelled like alcohol, so I thought is this that Colombian drug that makes you pass out, but it was only pepper spray. Then one of the thieves said there is only 30 dollars here you are poor. I said please take everything but leave my cards, and i.d. They took my watch. They asked how much are these sunglasses worth, and I said 5 dollars. I should have said 200, but under a life and death situation just the truth comes out. Then they asked where are you from, and I said from Ecuador, I am a resident, but they said you are not from here, and I said I am from California. I started praying to God , please help, God help me, God please help me, because I was worried they might hurt me severely or kill me. They drove for a while and I asked where are we going, because I thought they were going someplace hidden so they could do me harm. The sting of the pepper spray was very painful. Then they said get out. And I asked what are you going to do? And they said get the hell out the car now, and I moved toward the edge of the seat with my hands over my eyes and then the guy in back of me pushed me hard to the ground and I broke the fall with my arms so my face would not hit the pavement. They threw my wallet next to me. They took my 14 dollar watch, my 5 dollar sunglasses, my $1 dollar toy bird and my flash storage disk, but to my amazement left all the cash, $30 (because it was small change to them), and all my cards even leaving two lottery tickets. I was fortunate because these thieves were fairly good, I mean who would leave you 30 bucks, your cards and keys. They had morals and didn’t want to mess people up too much, just wanting the valuables. If I had resisted they would have used the sledge hammer and the knife. Thank God they left me unharmed and with my keys, my cards and small change. I looked around by just barely opening my eyes and wandered a bit. My eyes would sting so bad and I would have to close them. Then I saw a kentucky fried chicken store. Standing on the corner were 5 young men with long hair dressed in black rock n roll clothes. I went to them and said where is the police station because I have been robbed. They said there is no police station near by, but we will help you and were very kind. I asked them are you guys in a band? And they said yes we are called Justification. What a blessing to find these good rock n rollers at 2:30 in the morning. They offered me some rum out of the bottle but I said no, but thanks. One of the members, a tall one with long hair said I am Pablo like the pope Jaun Pablo the II. And I said you guys are the real popes. They would help me find a safe taxi, because I said the taxis are now working with the thieves to make money. Finally one arrived and I couldn’t remember the name of my hostal, or the street for sure saying rios o riofrio. He went to a place I didn’t know and for a moment was afraid he would rob me also. Finally we made it and he charged me 3 dollars. I would have had to walk if the thieves didn’t leave my 30 dollars. And at night the streets are crawling with gang members. Taxis are not safe in Ecuador anymore. Ecuador has a lot of thieves, more than in the USA or Europe, due to the poverty. There are pickpockets on the subways and buses. Some will accuse you of robbing their cell phone and frisk you for yours to steal it. There are thieves who hide in the brush in the country and spring on you to steal, threatening to kill you with a knive if you resist. In the hostels and hotels there are thieves who break in and steal your valuables. Theives will come to walled in private houses and tie up the owners while they take everything in a pick-up truck. Your guard dogs they poisen with meat or bread filled with rat poisen. They can cut electric fences and enter your house so quickly you don’t have a chance to see them or resist. Alarms are worthless because nobody comes when an alarm sounds, while the thieves enter and then cut the wire to the alarm. The only protection my neighbors had when two gun-armed thieves came to his house were the steel bars on the windows and doors. The thieves could break the lock on the gate but could not enter the house itself due to the steel bars on the house.  Don’t take taxis late at night from the Mariscal, Quinde, clubs section because they could be working with thieves. I have 17 years experience living in Ecuador and this is the first time I have been violently mugged, although  I have been robbed by pickpocketing once and breaking and entering many times.

:o:o:o:o:o:o:o

Thank you for sharing.  I am very happy to hear your are alive and well.

Sorry to hear about your troubles.  Are you leaving Quito or Ecuador now?  Do you feel it's like this all the time and all over? Or more of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Here in the states we hear about murders and heinous crimes quite a bit all over and it also seems to be picking up pace all around the world. 

There are so many places that are much more dangerous when one is by him or herself.  I think it's best to travel around in a larger group especially when clubbing.

Hi Chris,

I am relieved to hear you are ok!

I am moving to Quito in the coming months and also worried about personal safety.  I know that being female, in my 30s, caucasian, and not understanding a lot of Spanish already makes me a target. So I am prepared to be extremely cautious, keep a low profile, and learn Spanish as fast as I can.  I am not terribly afraid of being robbed (although perhaps I should be) - what I am afraid of is that I will be there with my 1.5 year old son and I think it is reasonable to expect that I will occasionally need to go places with just him and myself.  So more than anything else, I'm afraid of him getting kidnapped.  I am not going to have a car and so if I need to go places I will need to rely on taxis.  Obviously, I'm not going to be doing this at 2 in the morning, but I'm even a bit concerned that if the wrong cab driver learns I'm Canadian and where I live (should I call a taxi) I would make myself a target - they may assume I have money or someone back at home must and the wrong person at the wrong time may try to target me and take my son - or that it could happen anywhere else in the city.  That's my biggest fear of all!  I will be living with my mother-in-law, who is native Ecuadorian, but that's not going to help me much if I need to go someplace without her at some time, and even with her it is a risk.  There is a chance I could work out of the house in which I would have a regular schedule and I would probably need to bring my son to a babysitter - and there is a chance I would work only from home - but even then I would still need to go out sometimes for groceries or whatever.  I can't stay in all the time!  I would be living in an apartment building, which I think seems reasonably protected, but it's in the neighbourhood by the old airport, which seems a little seedy (but I don't have the experience in the city to know whether it is relatively safe or unsafe there). 

I don't know if I am being unreasonably paranoid or whether this is just a recipe for disaster.  Given your experience in the country, would you have any suggestions?

Thanks very much!

Hello MissKristin,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I have posted a reply to Chris below describing my situation.  As a single woman who has lived in Quito for two years, I am wondering if you might have any particular advice given my situation.

Many thanks!

Dear DatDyat,

I think you have a valid concern, but I have never heard of anyone kidnapping tourist kids or expats.  I feel like that is pretty far out of the scope of the crime in Quito.  It is for the most part a calm city.  That being said, I have a couple friends who got into a "commercial cab" and having a similar experience to Chris.  So, I would only take cabs that you call or take the Trole, Ecovia or blue busses.  All of the busses are reliable, the come like every 5 minutes.  If it's packed, just wait for one that isn't.  (That idea hasn't caught on with Locals it seems). 

The area by the old airport is mostly residential, I used to teach an English class there.  Of course I only went there during the day, but walking from the bus was never a problem.

You and your baby will be okay waking around by yourselves.  Stay alert, look people in the eye, don't be nervous.  Be prepared for a lot of folks staring at you, we don't blend, but just smile and go about your business. 

I hope you will find, as I did, that the majority of Ecuadorians are really lovely people and Quito is a nice place to live.

Best,
Kristin

I am sorry but I am going to have to call BS on this story. It sounds like a poor work of fiction to me. Too many inconsistencies. I believe the taxi robbery could have happened but I certainly don't believe they would have let you keep your money because it was too insignificant to them. You have 17 years experience living in Ecuador but you pick now to join this forum and warn us? Lots of cliches. If I am wrong I am sorry for your drama but this seems a little too much for me. Are you trying to scare people off?

This story is definitely going to scare a bunch of people off.  I too wonder the validity of it but always giving even questionable information the benefit of the doubt.  I am left with reservation as well.

I have heard stories here and there like this but for the most part I here more to the contrary.  After 17 yrs I would surely know better if it was dangerous, in fact I would probably know if the police station was near by or not as with many other particulars about the city or area.

I also ask these folks that do like to scare people off, what is that gain?  Is it the locals or other selfish expats?  This sort of thing happens in the states when people migrate from state to state.

If this is a true story and I actually hope that it is because if you lie about something like this, you are a VERY sick person. Otherwise, if its BS, I don't really see what you can gain from it....People are going to follow their dreams to Ecuador or any other place in the world regardless of dangers and inconvenience it my bring. Furthermore, you can get robbed in the states just as easy as anywhere else in the world. My 2 cents.

When I first  read this story it made me nervous about my upcoming move. Then I started thinking about all the things that have happened to friends of mine in my "safe" desirable San Diego beach community.

My best friend was raped by a strange man while she was baby sitting.

A friend was selling his car. When he sat down to sign the paper work, the buyer pulled out a metal pipe and hit him over the head.

Another friend was the night manager of a small beach hotel. Two men tied him up and held a gun to his head demanding the combination to the safe (which he didn't have).

A friend was grocery shopping when her husband suddenly grabbed her and threw her to the ground. She soon found out way when a man started shooting a rifle in the store.

When people look at my wedding pictures they often ask about a particularly good looking guy. A few weeks after our wedding, he got in an argument with a guy at work. He turned and walked away. The other guy got a gun and shot him in the back killing him.

I'm only  mentioning the more violent crimes, not the numerous times mine and others houses were burglarized and similar nonviolent crimes. I now live in Atlanta and am still in shock when listening to the news.  So when I recall theses things it reminds me that violence can happen anywhere. I'm not going to denie myself this great adventure because of it.

Thank you for all of your recommendations of areas to use caution. They will help me use comman sense in my new home.

Good for you Mela!!  You will love it!!

Whether Chris's story is true or not, the cab danger is relatively new and quite real.  Just call for cabs when you need them.

Like you said, be aware, confident and use your good judgement.

Bon Voyage!!

Mela1, I second MissKristin and wish you the best travels and safety along with a spectacular life living in Ecuador. I have to believe you will be in good hands.

Myself and others are busy liquidating while arranging the proper papers for our departure and landing in Ecuador.  Lot's of work ahead for us like it would be for most anyone taking a leap of faith for renewed beginnings.

Hi Kristin,

Thanks very much for your kind words of encouragement and good ideas!  I hope I can grow a good circle of other expats to continue to gain advice from - and of course contribute anything I can in the future!

Are you still in Quito, by the way?

Take care

Hi... I'm an elderly woman, and I've lived in the historic center of Quito for over a year, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  I don't know about the assaults you mention in La Mariscal.  I only know that, if you're an obvious tourist, caution is definitely required.  You need to blend in as much as possible.

La Mariscal is prime territory for theft if you're an obvious tourist, especially at night.  I walk through there in the daytime, and nothing out of the ordinary happens.

I carry what they call a kangaroo purse, which is the small pouch purse strapped around your waist.  I always try to partially conceal it with a light jacket, whether I have it on or tied around my waist with its sleeves. 

I don't wear jewelry or tote an SLR camera.  And, if you have a "mochila" or backpack, I would wear it to the front in La Mariscal or the historic center.  And I definitely would not go up El Panecillo by trail.  I use a taxi with an orange plate because that means it's registered.  White-plated taxis are at your own risk. 

But, anywhere in Quito, I usually take a city bus or walk.  The Plaza Grande bus usually lets me off in front of my apartment.  The cost for taxis and buses (or trolleys) is extremely low.  Trolleys tend to usually be too crowded... easy picking for pickpockets. 

At night, I stay home or use a registered taxi.

I hope this helps....   Andrellita:)

Quito is a city over 2 million people, and compared to cities around the world is fairly safe.  In this era, we need to practice caution everywhere like never before.  When I first purchased my apartment in 2004, crime here, except for pickpockets, was extremely rare...  It's changed, especially at night.

Andrellita, thank you for sharing your experienced insight. :)

Thank you for your concern that I am ok.

I still am in shock, even though it is a week since it happened. Taxis I will never take again in Quito.

Perhaps if you call a known service with a listed number and address it is ok.

If you live in a neighborhood and know the local taxis that park in designated areas those I would take. Get to know your local taxi drivers.

But as for any taxi in the city, the times have changed, because some taxi drivers are working with criminals. 


When I went to file a denuncia or police report, the lady was very kind and said that when she takes a taxi she writes down the license plate number then she calls on her cell phone to a friend telling her the license number and where she is going and when she will arrive all so the driver can hear her.

To me that is not worth it, I would rather walk (in the day time) or take the bus, trole or ecovia public transport system. Or call a known taxi driver.

I realized that 2 a.m. in the morning in La Mariscal bars and disco district is risky. That is why I took a painted yellow and black taxi with registration numbers on it.

But unfortunately that is not enough in that area. They know that you are probably drunk (I don't drink) or tired and so you won't be much of a threat. Also I was alone, when most clubbers go in groups of people.

In terms of secure lodging, a guarded, locked hotel or hostel, a gated community for houses, or an apartment with a guard, or a private house with walls and bars on the doors and windows, a private security service, plus a few good watch dogs is safe.

My story may sound like fiction to some readers because I said that the robbers didn't take my $30 cash, but it's true. At the Fiscalia where you denounce crimes, they said at least $300 worth of robbery is all that that were interested in.

So, the theives were thinking of cashwise around 150-300 or more.

If I had taken my debit bank card which I never do if I go to Quito, they would have dragged me to the ATM machine and forced me to take out 500 dollars which is the maximum you can take out per day.

I also carry only a copy of my cedula, but they did not want my cedula. Just valuables.

I was fortunate, thank God, because if the theives were pissed off that I didn't have much money, no debit card, and no cell phone they might have gotten angry and decided to harm me.

I think most thieves would kill you only if you tried to fight back or harm them, since they don't want the crime of murder on their head since murder is 16 years in jail.

I don't want to put off people thinking of or already planning to come here. Just know how to stay safe.

If there are any vegetarian expat members out there I would be interested in communicating.

In terms of fruits and vegetables Ecuador can not be topped even by California.

I'm not a female, but I can tell you that El Bosque is a safe neighbourhood. That being said I cannot recommend Quito as a place to live, no matter where, because the pollution alone will harm you, for sure, and that will be all the time and not something that 'might happen'. Other then that, you will stand a better chance of getting run over by a car/bus/truck than getting assaulted. Do not fear their criminal intent, but do fear their stupidity.

Security guards should not be trusted. They are bored out of their skull and have alot of time to 'think'. They have access to security camera, can see you coming and going.. and yes, that include banks.

Welcome yggdrasill, enjoy your stay.

My husband's family are locals of Quito. I've heard that they now use their phones to take a picture of the cab numbers before they get in. I guess they email it to themselves or someone else so that they could use it as evidence or to discourage a driver from doing anything shady.

You should try living in Chicago, Detroit, LA, or NYC for a year, lol!:P

Sure, I understand your concern and its true itsnot the best area at night but if you take a taxi after the disco instead of walking long distances you will be fine.  One good area to live is the Quicentro area all the way to the RIO COCA area in the north of town.  thats where most the Quitenos live. 

Dom

I have lived in Quito for 8 years now, and can say that what you hear is definitely exaggerated I always comment to our Spanish students and volunteers that it is the people who get robbed who write about it on the internet. People who don't get robbed generally do not comment on that fact online! So the sample is definitely skewed. But having said that one does have to be careful, especially at night. I can send you a set of safety instructions that we issue to students on how to avoid becoming a victim, although from experience you probably already know how to look after yourself.
I have seen things get better and worse in waves in the Mariscal. When the chorus of complaints rises sufficiently the police move into action and the thieves are pushed out, but gradually drift back again as the police presence wanes. They even moved the army in for a while a year or two ago!
In my 8 years of living and working in the Mariscal I have not been robbed yet. I have come very close on about 3 occasions. On none of these occasions was there the threat of violence although I have heard of this happening infrequently. With our students, more than half the time they get their bags stolen because they don't look after them adequately (putting them at their feet in an internet cafe for example) and the rest of the time two or three people surround them and just take their bag.
The president has vowed to crack down on crime in the historic center of Quito, which is generally much more unsafe than the Mariscal. We will see if, how and when this takes effect!

Or Atlanta!

After the US, and traveling the world extensively (including Ecuador, alone) I am not scared at all. But getting back to the original question of this trail, what's the best neighborhood (s) to live in Quito?

You're reading outdated information since it's from 2012, but in general North Quito has some of the best areas, and basically everything from parque Ejido to parque bicentenario is good. Of course some areas are better than others but this is subjective. Tenis is quite nice for instance but I find it boring.

Cumbaya, a suburb is also nice.

Thank you!

I can't talk about "increased/decreased" crime in Quito very much. However, I have few unlucky swiss and german males, who were robbed or were fighting to escape the robbers. One older caucasian male, working for an embassy was robbed twice during the day. One time he was walking in the Metropolitan Park on Saturday at noon. There were people walking too. None came to help him. The next time he was beaten and robbed during the lunch break time near Portugal and Eloy Elfaro. He lives in Quito about 8 years and he is convinced that the crime is increased.

The two male swiss friends also are afraid to ride a cab or walk in central Quicentro after 7:30pm. One was beaten and robbed. Another was beaten with the glas of beer bottle into the head, however, he could ecape being robbed. I live outside Quito in Cumbaya. However, here I don't walk anywhere after the darkness.

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Quito

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Quito

Moving to Quito

Find tips from professionals about moving to Quito

Travel insurance in Quito

Enjoy stress-free travel to Quito

Flights to Quito

Find the best prices for your flight tickets to Quito

2 million members!

Watch later