The bad things about living in Quito, Ecuador

A couple of months ago I arrived in Quito, Ecuador, expecting to settle here for a few years, maybe more. However I’ve decided it is not for me. At least I don’t think so. I’ve returned to the UK for a while to cool off.

Moving to any country is tough, especially during a pandemic. And it’s also very personal. I have hated my time in Quito, Ecuador, others love it.

I’ve lived in Lebanon, India, Syria (pre-civil war) and many, many more places. But nothing prepared me for life in Quito.

Now I know I’m going to get some backlash for this post. I hate whining and I was hesitant about offending anyone who loves it here. But this blog isn’t sponsored by a tourism board or hotel. I’m going to tell you like it is, for me, at least.

Here are the bad things about living in Quito, Ecuador for me personally…

The bad things about living in Quito


I can deal with a bit of pick pocketing, but I’m not cool with the level of and type of crime here. I grew accustomed to seeing guns while working in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, but in Quito it felt different. In Lebanon, I felt the guns were there to protect me, whereas here in Quito I felt threatened. In Lebanon I personally felt welcome as a foreigner, whereas in Quito I felt like a target. I’m white, blonde and I stand out.

One day I took a stroll from the hotel to a park with my three children. I had a few people approach me and try to touch me. I am fine, my kids were fine, but still it felt aggressive, to put it mildly. I’ve since asked local friends, hotel staff and my husband’s work colleagues and they all advise the same: never, ever take your kids out alone on the streets, day or night, even in the ‘good areas’ of town.

Now, that’s not to say that all kids are kept locked up inside. The issue is that I have three young children and they’re inclined to walk ahead or run around. I’ve been advised to keep my baby in a sling and the other two on a leash (literally), but I can’t stop my kids wandering off. Kidnapping, while rare, is a thing.

Since the pandemic hit, it’s been getting worse I’ve been told. Children have also been a target of kidnappings. That’s not to say people don’t take their kids on the street. Some do, including foreigners. But from what I’ve seen most parents are very, very cautious.

Sexual assault and rape is an issue here, too. That’s not to say the problem doesn’t exist elsewhere. I spoke to some Ecuadorian women here and they said that the country is moving in the right direction. People are starting to question a macho culture that pervades.

I know that travel safety sites often exaggerate, but still, they make for grim reading. Date rape drugs are widespread. Never accept a flyer, perfume sample from anyone in the street, regardless of how well dressed they appear, I’ve been told.

Express kidnappings, especially of tourists using unofficial taxis, are a big problem. Travellers are taken to an ATM where they’re cleared of their savings, or sexually assaulted or raped.

Expat life in a bubble or in fear 

Maybe I’m panicking too much. But I tend to trust locals and they all advise against me walking with my kids on the street alone. Ever.

So the solution is to stay at home, go to the mall (kill me now!) or head to the countryside. Based on this I feel my life would be stay in a bubble all week, then escape to the countryside on weekends. I’m not sure I could do this.

Maybe I’m worrying too much, but I’m a mum of three small children and I personally did not feel safe where I was in Quito.

Security is a personal feeling and I do not like the feeling of living in fear. This is not just one of the bad things about living in Quito: for me, it’s not just a lifestyle preference, it’s a dealbreaker.


Dog poop

Now it may sound ridiculous for a bit of dog mess to get in the way of a relocation. But there is a lot of dog poo!

Like in many other cities, stray dogs are a problem in Quito. I lived in Santiago de Chile where there were also a lot of strays, but there were also a lot more people cleaning up the streets.

Since staying in Quito I’ve stepped in dog poop more times that I can count. There’s dog poop in communal public parks as well as private gated condominiums. My two-year-old has got it on her hands playing in a gated community playground several times.

I politely asked a couple of owners whose dogs were crapping in the kids’ play area to clean up and they just shrugged and walked off. I wondered why no other kids played in the park and soon I realised – it was filthy. IThe park in the allegedly luxury condo we were staying was the dirtiest I’ve seen in a long time.

Again, maybe I’m blinkered as my husband was raving how clean the old town was, whereas I saw dog poop on every corner.

living in quito

Relocation support 

I’ve done a lot of research and it seems relocation agents are rare in Quito. Due to a miscommunication at my husband’s company we weren’t offered proper support for our move.

In case you’re wondering – a relocation agent acts as a one stop shop for helping find accommodation, registering at the hospital, providing cultural / security advice and anything else you might need when moving to a new country.

There are housing agents, there are lots of forums on Facebook with expats keen to help. There are people on social media claiming to offer their services to foreigners, but they’re not relocation agents. Unless you’re moving with a multinational company or large organisation which has solid experience of relocating workers to Quito, you might find yourself on your own.

We did eventually find a small relocation agency, but they seemed to come with their limitations. I didn’t get the impression they would be able to find us a suitable temporary home.

Lack of temporary housing

Airbnb does exist but it’s not as developed in other countries. The pandemic has put a lot of properties out of reach. 95% of the properties I contacted on Airbnb were actually no longer available for rent. We’re a family with three small children and it has been impossible to find suitable temporary accommodation. We ended up in a hotel.

Large companies tend to have their own temporary accommodation. For those moving without the arsenal of a big multinational, you’ll have to sign a minimum one-year contract (usually two years).

In my experience I found that most owners would provide very basic furniture (e.g. no TV, no bed linen, no cutlery etc) until our furniture arrived and then we would continue the same rental contract. But I wasn’t prepared to sign a long term contract and buy a load of household essentials having just arrived in a city I didn’t even like.

In it alone

If you are moving with a large company or experienced organisation, you may be OK. If you have family in Quito it’s a different ball game. However Quito is not an easy city to move to. You’ll need support.

A lot of the time I’ve felt like I’m fumbling in the dark. My kid got a concussion and I didn’t know which hospital to take him to, I didn’t have functioning internet to search online. Thankfully I have a friend of a friend whose sister-in-law happens to be a brain surgeon (what are the chances?!) and I managed to get the support I needed. My kid was OK. House hunting, finding household help and even grocery shopping has been a struggle for me though.

I’m immensely grateful to the Ecuadorian people who have tried to help, but at the end of the day I need more. I can’t rely on a friend with her own kids, job and busy life to find me a house.

life in quitoCity style

Ok, I’m not going to mince my words here: Quito is ugly. Sure the old town houses some beautiful antique churches, but on the whole I find the architectural style pretty gross. Now, I’ve lived in Antwerp, in Belgium, which has some very industrial zones, but I didn’t find it depressing like Quito.

Because of the crime situation you’d be a fool for wearing nice jewelry or handbags. I’ve been told off for dressing ‘too nicely’. I loved seeing all the fashionistas prance about in Antwerp and Paris. I found it invigorating, interesting and inspiring. I felt alive there. Whereas in Quito, I felt numb.

The villages outside of Quito are much prettier. The nature outside of Quito is breathtakingly beautiful. If you value nature and a simple down to earth life you may well love it. But damn it, I wanted a proper cocktail! I wanted my wacko vegan food. Again, the bad things about living in Quito for me might be great things for you. It’s a simple, laid back style which some of my friends loved.

Most expat families seem to live in areas outside of Quito called Tumbaco and Cumbaya. I saw both and I didn’t like them. I really love walking around the city and this just isn’t possible here. Some expats have told me it is, but it’s nothing compared to wandering the souks of Lebanon, the cobbled streets of Paris or a London market. Personally I found both areas depressingly suburbian. I hate malls with a passion. And walking round and round a condominium isn’t my idea of fun.

People advise me to go to this cafe or that bar. People say I just need to explore a little more. But I go there and I’m like ‘ummm, what the… this is it?!’

We stayed in a five star hotel. Apparently. (It was five star in name alone). Maybe I’m a snob, maybe I’m an overtravelled brat, but if you compare the offerings compared to other cities, you might be disappointed.

quito, ecaudor


Quito enjoys a series of microclimates, so it very much depends on where you live as to your weather that day. Still, it’s normal to experience thunder, rain, scorching heat and humidity, all in the same day.

There is very little difference to the temperature all year round. The only difference is more rain in the winter, I’m told.

While the weather outside of Quito is warmer, on the whole I was been really cold living in Quito. The houses and hotel I stayed in were cold and came without heating (or aircon). For about two hours per day it was too hot, but in the evening it was really, really cold. I wore warm socks in bed and most days I went round the hotel in a hoodie and body warmer.

Outside of Quito it’s more tropical which makes for a much more pleasant climate. However, it also means a lot of mosquitos. It seems I was the breakfast, lunch and dinner for a swarm of insects one weekend. My husband’s legs were so inflamed with bites they looked like they’ve been inflated with a bicycle pump.

It’s a small issue, but nonetheless it’s worth noting that the so called ‘spring all year round weather’ that everyone raves about isn’t a dream come true for all.

the bad things about living in quito

The bad things about living in Quito are personal

Moving to a new country is always tough. However there is one thing waiting out it out until it gets better, and there is another thing being irresponsible as a parent. In Quito my kids were bored, tired and fed up. For the most part I felt exhausted, tired and often, scared.

I can deal with a lack of vegan restaurants. I can cope with dog dirt. A bit of cold weather doesn’t put me off. But as a mother, the crime scares me so much.

As mentioned, it’s very personal. My husband loves the laid back lifestyle. He doesn’t get the unwanted attention I do. He doesn’t freak out for the kids’ safety like me. He would gladly settle in Quito for a long, long time.

I got chatting to a family of Ecuadorians and even they held a difference of opinion among themselves. The daughter said I should stick it out, the father suggested moving to the country and the mother recommended moving to the UK or Uruguay as soon as possible (Uruguay is another option I’m toying with).

A friend who I met online and is relocating at the same time as me hates Quito too, all for the same reasons. Too dangerous to live in the city and too boring to live outside, she lamented.

Another travel journalist friend described Ecuador as ‘rather boring’ and the ‘Belgium of South America’. I think that’s being unfair to Belgium.

It’s true that we’ve also been unusually unlucky. No doubt my impressions have been shaped by a series of misadventures. I appreciate that many of the bad things about living in Quito apply to may other cities, too.

Ecuador is the Belgium of South America

Holiday yes, life no

The fruit in Ecuador is amazing. The nature outside of the city is beautiful. There are amazing travel opportunities. But for me, as a mother of three young kids, security is a deal breaker. I know other families love it, but not me. Not yet, at least.

If you’re considering a move here, my only advice would be to visit before you move. Quito is a marmite city. Husband loves it. I hate it. Who knows how you will feel?

I would gladly vacation in Ecuador again, but I have no desire to live there. Taking a holiday in a place is very different to living there.

Call me stupid, call me ignorant, call me unlucky, I do not want to live in Quito.

Are you moving to a new city? If you do like your city, but you’re struggling to settle in, you might also want to check out my tips here


  1. Anna
    September 29, 2020 / 12:01 pm

    I really feel for you on this post. I used to live in Italy and I was offered a ‘better’ job than the one I had if I moved further south to a city called Bari. I absolutely hated it there! And I really loved living in Italy before I moved there. I didn’t have kids and I was single, so I had the luxury of quitting and moving back to where I was. I can imagine how you feel – I have 3 children now and I think I would hate it if I felt they weren’t safe. I think Uruguay would be much better than Quito. I stayed in Quito for a little while many years ago. I think even then I was warned about going out alone.

    • Nina
      October 2, 2020 / 5:59 am

      Thank you Anna. I’ve also heard of Bari, and it doesn’t sound like the high life for a young singleton!

      It’s nice to hear you understand. The sad truth is that people who haven’t experienced things like us will judge and give dumb advice (Like when I decided against a move to Nigeria someone told me to take my unvaccinated newborn baby there and ‘just fly back’ if he contracted a disease…).

      I may HAVE to return to Quito, which fills me with dread, but it would not be a choice on my part. I’d just have to get through it. For now though, I’m just making the most of life in the UK with my family.

  2. jelly
    October 26, 2020 / 2:18 am

    Same thing can happen in any city, . Better check crime records per city and relax remember Kim Kardashian worst crime experience was in Paris

    • Nina
      October 26, 2020 / 10:44 am

      Absolutely. As I say it was more a feeling. I spoke to journalist friend and like you, she recommended the crime stats. Although they didn’t make for great reading to be honest. If I did have to move to Quito I’d just choose to live in a much smaller bubble than I’m accustomed to, I think.

  3. November 2, 2020 / 5:31 am

    No place is perfect and many places will not be ideal for us base on our expectations, needs and preferences. At least you gave it a go and from the post, it seems like you gave this decision a lot of thought. I felt similarly when I lived in Kuwait- although it was an easy life for me professionally, outside of work, the country just rubbed me the wrong way so I left after 9 months. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences!

    • Nina
      November 4, 2020 / 5:21 pm

      Hi Aneesa, Firstly, I love your blog! It is refreshing to see someone blogging for the sheer love of it. I really appreciate your honesty. I do make a living from my blog, but I’d like to think it is authentic and I’m not afraid to post stuff from the heart, even if people might disagree with me.
      Thank you also for the kind words re my post here. I may return to Ecuador at some stage, but it will be with more support and a back up plan. I’m not stressing yet as with the pandemic everything is so topsy turvy, right?
      And interesting to hear your thoughts re Kuwait. I have heard it can be really challenging. One of my friends loved it, but another who was not in work at the time really struggled. All the best, Nina x

  4. James
    March 20, 2021 / 12:00 am

    I completely agree. We moved here three months ago and it was fun for a week but you VERY quickly run out of things to do, save for going to the mall and restaurants like you said. Dirty, boring, and a feeling of lawlessness. Don’t even get me started on the meat and cheese quality, after having lived in Germany and the US for many years that is a dealbreaker! We quickly learned that Quito is not for us and will be returning to Los Angeles soon. Thanks for posting this, I was glad to hear that we are not alone in our disdain for this city.

    • Nina
      March 20, 2021 / 8:44 am

      Thanks James. Sorry to hear you had a similar experience. The old saying, “well if you don’t like it here, then you can leave” rang true for me. I didn’t like it, so I left!

  5. March 24, 2021 / 6:46 am

    I totally agree, I’ve lived in Africa, Europe and the Middle East and nothing compares the miserable 10+ years I spent in Quito! I hated every minute and even though I still own a business in the city I refuse to return…..stay away unless you enjoy blatant corruption, noise, trash, pollution and the unfriendliest people you ever wish to meet!

    • Nina
      March 24, 2021 / 1:27 pm

      Gosh, sorry to hear that. And 10 years?! The people I met were, on the whole, lovely. But yes, personally, the dog dirt and general feeling of lawlessness made me very uncomfortable. As I say though, my husband loved it, so hey…?!

  6. Patricia
    May 25, 2021 / 5:52 pm

    Me dió risa leer tu publicación! Es muy cierto! Yo soy ecuatoriana, quiteña, viviendo en el extranjero. Ni loca viviría en la ciudad de Quito. Es más, mis padres salieron de la ciudad hacia Cumbayá hace más de 30 años.
    La verdad es q yo voy de visita sólo a Cumbayá. No recuerdo la última vez q fuí a Quito, y tengo mucho miedo de ir a la ciudad con mis hijos.

    Cumbayá y Tumbaco son muy “Suburban” pero aún así hay mucha gente viviendo allí. No hay necesidad de ir a Quito para encontrar centros comerciales, restaurantes o cafés, incluso hay muchos colegios buenos para los hijos, aunque la renta sea más cara por allá, creo q vale la pena. El clima es mejor q Quito. Yo me siento a gusto ahí en el valle, ese sería el único lugar a donde yo iría a vivir.

    Quito no se puede comparar con una ciudad europea o de medio Oriente. La gente con dinero no vive, ni invierte, ni se divierte en la ciudad. No way! Quito no es París.

    Yo te recomiendo salir de Quito, e ir a Cumbayá o Tumbaco. Por lo menos por allá se siente q la gente es más educada, más responsable, más amable. Hay clubs y lugares para los niños, las escuelas están cerca, los condominios y urbanizaciones tienen mejor mantenimiento. Cómo te digo, yo ni loca viviera en Quito.

    Lo único q le salva a Quito es q es mejor q Lima. Lima es horrible hasta de visita!

    • Nina
      May 25, 2021 / 8:54 pm

      Hola Patricia,
      Gracias por su respuesta. Me alegro de no haberte ofendido! Como digo, fue un sentimiento muy personal. Tengo amigos que vivieron en Quito muchos años y les encantó.
      Me quedé tb en Cumbaya, pero parece que no estábamos en una buena zona … o tal vez tuve muy, muy mala suerte. Creo que fue una serie de hechos desafortunados, mal tiempo, situaciones peligrosas y ya…. no podia mas.
      Para ser honesto, ¡quizás tuve solo muy, muy mala suerte!
      Aún así, no creo que Ecuador fuera para mí, así que voy a Uruguay.
      A ver, a ver…

  7. Jeff
    July 5, 2021 / 11:44 pm

    I spent 6 weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay right before the pandemic started (with a short stay in Buenos Aires). I fell in love with both cities and have been unable to go back due to the border closures in both countries. As an alternate, I have chosen to go to Quito for a month so I read your article with interest and concern. I am from Southern California, am a single mature gay male, so no children to worry about. I have read that crime is an issue in Quito, but to be honest I heard the same things about Montevideo and BA before I went and I never felt like I was in danger in either city. Dog poop was rampant in both cities – and the sidewalks in Montevideo are atrocious and even dangerous to walk on. BA is much more cosmopolitan and fast-paced that Montevideo; Montevideo is very laid-back and slow. The locals love grilled meat, potatoes and pizza – not a lot of culinary choices but I hear things are getting more diverse. I have to say I met some amazing people in both cities and went same great restaurants and bars. One thing I did was book a couple local experiences and walking tours through Air B & B and was able to interact with locals who were really proud to show their cities off. I made some lasting friendships while there, including some expats I met through Facebook groups. Since I have been back in the states, I learned a little Spanish and am looking forward to Quito. I found an amazing (and cheap!) Air B & B flat in the La Floresta neighborhood that seems to be close to everything and looks relatively safe, modern and clean. I don’t mind a little grit and grime – I’m wondering if the children weren’t a factor would you have felt the same way? I really do appreciate your writing this as (like you say) it’s an authentic opinion. I heartily recommend Montevideo – but it’s not Paris either. Buenos Aires maybe a good choice for you.

    • Nina
      July 7, 2021 / 11:51 am

      Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so glad you got a lot from both cities and with this attitude (and a bit of street savvy caution) I’m sure you’ll love Quito, too.

      Yes, I think the fact I have small children greatly impacted on my impression of Quito. If I were young and childless I would have felt very differently about Quito, I’m sure. I’m sure my younger self would be bored to tears in Uruguay whereas now I relish the opportunity to move somewhere a little more chilled. (I’m now looking to move to PDE instead of MVD so even quieter!)

      I also wonder if I felt less safe as a woman in Quito…? Some catcalls and unwanted touching made me feel uneasy. But yes, the main issue was relating to my children’s health and security.

      I’ll also say that I was extremely unlucky in Quito. One disaster after another warped my perception slightly I’m sure. As I said, I can only write from my personal experience and that was traumatic in my case. While there were some parts I enjoyed (I made some great friends) I feel it would be dishonest to pretend I enjoyed the city. However my husband has travelled many times to Quito and loves it more every time he goes.

      Keep me posted on your travels. I hope you have a wonderful time and I wish you all the best


  8. July 20, 2021 / 7:24 am

    Hello Nina

    Just found your blog. I am in Quito Now for 7 Days at the Beautiful Dann Carlton Hotel.

    I usually stay at the JW Marriott or an Air B&B. I love Quito and the Mountain climbing and Airport that get’s me back to the USA or South America.

    In the 5 years i have been coming here i have never felt unsafe , just sometime discriminated against until the Ecuadorians find out im American.

    All places have good and bad and discrimination of some group, as one of my favorite places Montevideo Uruguay does.

    As you said Quito may not be a place you want to live but its a cool place to visit. I find much more crime in Flordia ,Texas and many other United States.

    I wish you well in your travels and hope you do the best thing one can do, which us travel extensively as long as you may.

    I started traveling with passport at 5 years old as my father was a 1st Sargent Airbourn Army Ranger and grew up in Schwinfurt Germany.

    I fell in love with Brazil and moved there in 1989 when most people told me it was the most dangerous country to live in. I would have been a fool to miss out on the fun i had 4 years after the fall of the military dictatorship until today in 2021.

    So everyone listen and find tbe place or places that suit you best and travel travel travel.

    Best wishes to all and Especially Nina for the great blog.

    Sammy “The Road Warrior”

    • Nina
      July 20, 2021 / 9:51 am

      Hi Sammy
      Firstly, thank you for your kind words. I think it would have been so tempting to scream that I had got it all wrong, so thank you for your tact!

      As I see you understand travel and life abroad is personal and quite often down to luck too. From what I am hearing I was extremely unfortunate in Quito. And as I know you understand that when I myself had a bad experience I can’t pretend it was all good. I feel a lot of bloggers sugar coat bad personal experiences. In my case at least, Quito was extremely traumatic and I felt my kids were not safe on one occasion in particular.

      However, it is so refreshing to hear you had a good time. I lived in Syria for a while and my fiance came to visit and he didn’t really ‘get it’. Just like I didn’t get Quito. He was marvelling at the beautiful buildings, whereas after my ‘incident’ I was worried my kids would be snatched. Meanwhile in Syria I was chatting away to the people, feeling totally inspired, really alive, marvelling at the mosques and my husband was grumbling about faulty toilets. It is so personal, right?!

      I think I’m a bit too traumatised to return to Quito anytime soon so it’s great to hear more about the many, wonderful, positive sides of the city, too.

      I’m hearing a LOT of grumbling about Uruguay on Facebook expat groups, but it still think it will be worthwhile for my personal situation.

      Wishing you all the best in your travels and life abroad. And again, thank you


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