A Solo Female Traveler's Experiences On And Off The Beaten Path

Taking The Bus From Guayaquil To Máncora, Peru. Or, How I Happily Avoided Ever Visiting Guayaquil While In Ecuador.

One evening while enjoying dinner in Canoa, Ecuador at the Surf Shack I could not help but overhear a conversation taking place at the bar. A man was speaking to another man about his experiences in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Both men were Gringos, as this is an important thing to note given where the conversation was going. The man who had traveled to Guayaquil on many occasions was sharing the horrid experiences he had while in the largest city in Ecuador. Theft, shady cab drivers, fear for his life, and all other good stuff like that. I had not planned on going to Guayaquil, as the city itself did not have anything I wanted to see except maybe the giant iguanas that have made public spaces their home. But I did know that Guayaquil was where I was going to have to journey in order to grab a flight to the Galapagos, or a bus to Peru. Like any well-seasoned traveler I did my research after hearing the man’s story and took to the internet to find out if Guayaquil was really as bad as he made it out to be. This would of course alter my plans on taking the bus from Guayaquil to Máncora if the rumors were true.

The conclusion I came to was yes, he was correct, and I did not want to venture to Guayaquil for any reason whatsoever. I will not get into the details of the horror stories I read online about Guayaquil but I will say the one that sold me on not going there was about a woman being robbed in a cab, not having enough money by the thieves standards, and so she was thrown out of the cab while it was moving. Seriously?

How did I avoid Guayaquil while still having to take take the bus from Guayaquil to Máncora, Peru? It was easy, really; and it only cost me an extra $20.

When flying to the Galapagos you have two choices: 1. Fly out of Quito, with a layover of less than one hour in Guayaquil (you never leave the plane), or, 2. Fly direct from Guayaquil. The cost of the ticket from Quito is around $20 more one-way than Guayaquil to San Cristobal (the best island, by far). It also saves you a 7-hour plus bus ride if you happen to be in Banos (like I was) pre-departure. I headed from Banos back to Quito and booked my flight from there. Guayaquil avoided with success, so far.

With only two days left on my Visa I had no choice but to book my return flight from the Galapagos into Guayaquil. I did not want to know what the penalty was going to be for overstaying my Visa in Ecuador, as much as I would have liked to stay in the Galapagos another couple of months. Next time, all 90 days of my Visa will be spent there. The good news about Guayaquil is that the bus station is a mere 2-minute taxi ride from the airport, or roughly a fifteen walk. You never have to go into the city! You have to love the internet and the information you can locate thanks to travelers blogs and TripAdvisor forums.

Upon arrival in Guayaquil at the airport I headed out to the taxi stand. There are always tons of taxis, and if you don’t like the driver of the first one in line you can wait for someone else to take his cab and then grab the next. I have even done this at LAX when I find the taxi driver to be rude–it is a common occurrence, especially when you arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Same goes for if the price is not what you want to pay–they don’t use meters in Guayaquil so ask before you get in and agree on the price then. I was especially wary of finding a cab in Guayaquil, of course, but was very lucky that the first cabbie in line was a lovely older gentleman who was incredibly kind, helpful, and overall simply wonderful. For $3 he took me to the bus station down the street and now the time came to find my bus from Guayaquil to Máncora. Easier said than done, I am afraid.

The bus station in Guayaquil is similar to a giant mall. There are the ticket counters, located on the first floor in the back of the building, and the entire rest of the place is full of restaurants, stores, pharmacies, and even an arcade. If it had a cinema it would be the best bus station ever created. There were even plugs next to the chairs so you could charge your electronics. Always amazing.

The Cruz del Sur bus company was recommended online but they did not have a bus on Thursday nights so I had to find another ride. I went with CIFA after much wandering about trying to locate a bus that traveled the Máncora route. In Guayaquil, unlike other cities in Ecuador, they do not list the places they go on their banner signs but the company name…not very helpful. My experience with CIFA could not have been better. I booked the 7:00 p.m. bus, that would arrive in Máncora at 4:00 a.m. Ouch! The bus was a sleeper, where your seat angles back 70 degrees, and they even provided a dinner meal of chicken (it may actually have been puy, but hey, it tastes like chicken) and rice, plus juice. The air conditioner was not on full blast, so the bus was kept at a nice temperature. They played a movie, and did not make infrequent stops for random people on the side of the road (a must for safety on a night bus). The border crossing into Peru went very smoothly. It took an hour, at least, but it just happened to be a busy night. I was even able to secure the 6-month Visa for Peru so it was a shiny happy moment, at 1:30 a.m.

The bus from Guayaquil to Máncora was easy, and trouble free. I am happy I did not have to set foot in Guayaquil, aside from my few hours in the bus station (my flight arrived at 3:30 p.m. so you can see I did not have to linger in the terminal for long). I found it to be the best solution for taking a bus from Guayaquil to Máncora without actually having to spend time in the city. Were I to do it again I would do the same, or find a way to double-bus for the day if coming from a mainland city. I have heard good things from people about Guayaquil, and horror stories from others. One day I may find out for myself if Guayaquil is really as bad as people say. For now, I am quite happy to not know. Guayaquil may be the best location to catch a bus to Máncora, but that does not mean you have to spend any time there beforehand.

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