Staying Safe on Buses in Ecuador


Buses in Ecuador are largely very safe, but there are some things you should know before you get on board.

Unfortunately, during our travels we met many backpackers who were robbed while riding the buses in Ecuador.

Most times, this happened when the backpacker put their bags on the floor of the bus, and the thief used a knife to slit through the bottom of the bag.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe on buses in Ecuador.

How most travelers get robbed on buses

Let’s start this article off with a personal example.

I was traveling on the buses in Ecuador from Baños to Montañita via Guayaquil to spend more time with someone I met along the way, separating from friends who were headed north in search of Colombia.

After being on the road for almost six months, I decided to take the night bus to Guayaquil, hoping for sleep instead of another cramped, hot ride. There is not lot of leg room in the buses of Ecuador, and my iPod selection was long-since tired. The bus departed at 10:00 PM.

At one of the first stops, the nice Colombian couple sitting behind me got off. I was one of about 15 on the bus, and was alone towards the back. I figured I could sleep since I couldn’t see anyone for three rows in any direction.

My bag was on the floor with the strap wrapped around my ankle.  I jerked awake when I felt a sharp tug on my bag, pulling my foot underneath the seat. Startled, I whipped around and locked eyes with the two anonymous men who sat motionless behind me.

I half-yelled “Que pasa?” in an aggressive tone, as the contents of my bag spilled onto the floor, it’s zipper broken. The men looked and each other, then at me, and got off the bus, stepping over me as I gathered my purse, make-up bag, and tangerines off the floor.

Needless to say, I did not sleep at all the rest of the way.

1. Stay alert. Look alive. Make eye contact and notice your neighbors.

This is easier if you travel during the day, but if you find yourself on a night bus alone, sit next to a family or group of people you can make small talk with. They could be potential allies. After all, no one wants to be the backpacker who got jacked.

2. Wear a money belt

Yes, you should really wear a money belt.

Keep important documents (passport) and bank-related items (credit cards, cash, etc.) concealed in your money belt under your clothes.

A money belt is the best investment you can make before you start your adventure! Everything else can be replaced… eventually.

3. Keep things you carry on the bus with you in your lap

It can be annoying to carry everything in your lap and it might feel like you’re overreacting, especially if you’re on one of the crowded buses in Ecuador.

Yes, it’s annoying to carry things in your lap the whole ride. But by and large, those who followed this rule while in Ecuador got to keep their precious items. If you’ve been carrying them around this long, it’s safe to say you’d like to keep them, right?

4. Be vigilant on overnight rides

If you’re traveling long distance and want to get some shut-eye, be extra vigilant and aware. I always try to sit next to a woman, and I try to take the seat towards the window.

Then, I put my bag between me and the window, so that I’m sort of leaning on it. It helps me fall asleep, and it makes me feel better knowing that should my bag get jerked, I will feel it.

Moral of the story: theft happens. But Ecuador is an amazing place! Go forth and fall in love with the Amazon, mountains, surf-culture and beautiful people there. Ride the buses in Ecuador, and the rest of South America, by following these simple safety tips.

5. Try to sit next to a woman

Unfortunately, your biggest threat while riding the buses in Ecuador, or elsewhere throughout South America, might not be theft at all. Once when I was riding a bus in Argentina I woke up a to a man trying to take selfies of me and zooming in on my cleavage. Eww!

So for these reasons and many more, I always try to sit next to a woman when traveling solo on the buses.

Have an amazing adventure!

What about you? Have you ever taken the buses in Ecuador? What do you do to stay safe?


About Author

Ellen wanders. She wandered her way through Europe in 2007 during a semester abroad in Madrid, then through parts of the South Pacific after college graduation, and spent a year in South and Central America during 2010. Most recently, she went on a solo adventure south of the border to research and write the travel guidebook Go Girl Guides: Mexico.

1 Comment

  1. Very well done article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, although Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America, it has much to offer – from acres of rainforest to beautiful islands, Inca monuments, colonial architecture, vibrant cities and more!

    However, there are tourist-targeting scammers and petty crime to be wary of.

    Do be wary of snatch thefts, overcharging restaurants, luggage theft, the hotel transport scam, take my baby, hotel scam, and many more!

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