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Ecuador safety tips from our experience

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We (DH, DD7 and I) travelled to Ecuador in March 2012. We spent overall 5 nights in Quito, 2 nights at Bellavista, 2 nights in Otavalo and then a week on a Galapagos cruise. Before I left I had concerns about safety after reading others. In Quito, we stayed at the Marriott. . We are very well-travelled and have never had an incident but have had some close calls (with pickpocketing in Europe and we believe an attmept this time at the Otavalo Sat market). We had no problems in Quito but here's what we did - used a private guide/driver and in the evenings used a taxi to/from dinner. We also used a guide to do the Otavalo area and at the artisan towns and markets he always gave us time to wander on our own.

Our experience In Quito and towns:
We talked around Old Town on a Monday morning in March. Some tourists but not many around. I never felt unsafe. I never noticed anyone that looked suspicious or concerning although I kept my eye on this one roving "coca leaf tea" hawker. I had read this forum so I was aware of tricks like the mustard mishap and ready for it if someone tried that on us. I made sure to explain what some "bad" people could do and what she should do if it happpens. All was fine. We also never felt unsafe when wandering at the Otavalo market or in the artisan towns.

Camera concerns:
I was concerned about my camera too. I did not take my huge DSLR (huge compared to my other cameras) because of concerns of theft and just packing etc... I used a point and shoot which is almost equiv. to a dslr - my panasonic lumix with 18x zoom. Way to big to put in a pocket but not totally obvious. When walking I kept a tight grip on the strap. No problems.

Ideas for Quito safety and general safety tips that work for us:
The guide was awesome and if you have several people in your party a guide can even be cheaper than regular tours. If you like to wander do it but I have a suggestion. Use a guide for a half day in Old Town to go to the major sights. Have him/her suggest a good lunch spot, ask him about those areas to stay out of and after a mornig with the guide showing you around you can leave off at the lunch spot, have some lunch and then wander around in the afternoon. Stop in some shops or museums and enjoy if on your own at getting your bearings in the am. Then take a taci (they are cheap by US standards) back to your hotel.

We take precautions. First I have an eagle eye - very observant and watch what is going on around me. Two we don't wear jewelry (I even leave my wedding ring at home) or have any pricey trappings like Louis Vuitton bags etc.... Three I use a small cross the chest pouch/ bag from ebags to carry a copy of our passports, enough cash just for the outing, a credit card, kleenex and lip balm. DH might carry a little cash in a front pocket. Four we don't do what I call stupid things - flash cash, walk around at night alone, go into shady areas (as in dangerous areas) - every town and city has those areas and you can ask; try not to take crowded buses of subways and if you do position yourself well and hold of tight to your valuables. I also practice "not" standing around looking at a map. Try to figure out where you want to go before you head out and if you do need to look at your map try to not look obvious.

Crime can happen anywhere to anyone but quite simply criminals look for easy marks...they take the path of least resistance. I was a criminal prosecutor for more than a decade and have lived near Harlem in NYC ( back before NYC had Guiliani, on the NE side of Capitol Hill in DC when the murder rate was over 500/year, and in South Central LA - some rough places. In all the years I was only robbed at gunpoint once outside my Capitol Hill home - I fought the guy even though he had a gun - just telling you all this so you where I'm coming from with the safety tips. Be aware of your surroundings, take precautions, be smart but be sure to have fun!

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